QOTD: How Much Do You Hate Stop-Start Technology?

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
qotd how much do you hate stop start technology

One of my biggest pet peeves is the very existence of stop-start systems in modern vehicles. In theory, they’re intended to improve fuel economy by shutting down the engine while the car is stationary — when you’re effectively getting zero miles per gallon. In practice, they’re more of a nuisance than anything else. Every time I’m in a car that’s unfamiliar to me and the system shuts down the engine at a stop light, there is a fraction of a second where I assume something has gone terribly wrong and my stomach drops out of my body and onto the seat. Maybe I’ve just driven too many junkers but the sensation is always unsettling to a point where I have to deactivate the system to maintain peace of mind.

I am also fairly confident that repeatedly cycling your engine in stop-and-go traffic isn’t great for the crankshaft and a host of other components, even if the manufacturer is trying its utmost to mitigate the issue. But I’m aware that some people don’t mind their vehicle becoming a jittery, broken-feeling mess in an urban environment so long as it saves them some fuel in the long run. Unfortunately, that information hasn’t made me hate it any less.

What about you? Is stop-start technology the bane of your driving existence or a necessary evil in the war on emissions?

In a half-hearted attempt to play devil’s advocate, I can acknowledge that the system does help some larger engines fly beneath the EPA’s radar by improving fuel economy during city driving. You can also shut the system down (every single time you enter the vehicle) if you don’t want to deal with it.

It should also be said that the technology works far better on hybrid vehicles — thanks to a bigger battery and integrated electric motor. This results in a sensation that doesn’t feel like you are destroying the vehicle every time you ask it to resume operation. Likewise, more recent editions of stop-start technology are decidedly less obnoxious than their earlier counterparts. But I can’t name any since manufacturer who has gotten it so right that it would be forgivable on anything other than the laziest of Sunday drives.

As for the reliability aspect, automakers have upped their lubrication, hardware, and battery games to avoid disaster. However, how effective this will be when you’re asking the system to work overtime is still unclear. I’m skeptical of the durability of any motor that is asked to start up twenty times or more often every single day. There’s also the matter of how much fuel you’ll actually conserve. If your commute includes 30 minutes of gridlock, then you’re likely to notice savings at the pump. Otherwise, automatic stop-start seems rather unnecessary.

That won’t keep it from becoming ubiquitous, though. With automakers seeking to improve fleet-wide efficiency in order to keep regulators off their backs, there’s no way in hell this technology will vanish overnight. If it’s going to die, people will have to come out against it in droves — just like in my dream.

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

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  • Zipper69 Zipper69 on May 01, 2020

    I experienced this first in a small rental Ford in the UK, as if coping with RHD and roundabouts wasn't enough pressure. Those jitters got very trying in heavy stop-go traffic. I agree with the feeling that the long term wear and tear to engine components must be considerable, more so if your daily commute always includes bouts of walking pace traffic.

  • MAD65689901 MAD65689901 on Nov 26, 2022

    Another high tec stupidity!

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