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A new paradigm for new cars

For those of you who have not purchased a new car for a while and are considering doing so in the near future I want to share the recent service experience I had for my 2015 Jeep Cherokee. I don’t know if my experience was typical but I suspect it is.

I took my Jeep to the dealer for a routine service (LOF and tire rotation). The total time at the dealer was about 4 hours. Of that time, about 2 1/2 or 3 hours was spent in updating the software for the various computers. It had never occurred to me that computers were that pervasive in new cars.

Attendant to that, my Jeep has the 3.2L V6 engine, which comes with start/stop technology (when you stop at a stop light the engine shuts off and restarts when you take your foot off the brake). After the service was completed I noticed the start/stop function had stopped working. I contacted the dealer. The customer service representative spoke with the service technician, who contacted Chrysler. It seems that all of the software updates (there were a total of 6 of them) may take 3-7 days to become fully integrated into the system. I was told to wait a few days to see if the problem rectified. Sure enough, when I drove it today it had.

As I said earlier, this type of complexity had never occurred to me, so if you haven’t purchased a new car recently, be advised.

Completely normal… for Chryslers anyway. Just kidding. Every new car has a pile of computers both large and small controlling almost anything you can imagine. And needing updates. The “distributed computer concept” in cars has been going on for 30 years or so. Software updates for about 20 years.

There are computers running nearly everything. Just to name a few; engine, transmission, power steering, anti-lock brakes and stability control, climate control, entertainment system (radio, CD, MP3/4 player, ect), the suspension (electronic shocks, leveling, 4-corner air ride), central body control system with anti-theft, remote door locks and window control, remote hatch/trunklid control. And many more depending on how much you spent on the car and how may bells and whistles you bought.

All have software, all are talking to one another and most all can be updated and many can “learn” about the car they are in and its condition, how you drive, what fuel you use. Each takes a little time to learn and settle on the right operational parameters.

"Open the pod bay doors, please, HAL."
Hello, HAL, do you read me?"

“Affirmative, Dave. I read you.”

“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

"I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that."


I’ve got a 2016 and have never had the software upgraded that I know of. That start stop feature though would be a deal breaker for me, same as drum brakes. What would I need that for driving across South Dakota or Indiana? Maybe in Boston but I don’t go there.

I was in a new car with the stop/start feature a couple days ago, and I couldn’t tell it was active. Well, inactive, as the case may be. I had it on a rental car in Europe in 2010. It was unnerving at first, but I got used to it. The car was a BMW diesel, and the I could always hear the engine. Except whet it cut off, of course.

When we test drove cars I think it was a malibu that had the stop start, with 2 batteries! It did not bother me. We found a more comfortable car,

The start/stop would not affect you, because in SD you never stop 'til you reach the destination.:grin:

Good answer, common_sense

This car has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down- want details?
Frame data follows:


too much technology.
Just because they COULD . . does NOT mean that they should.

Having just refurbished the starter (for the first time) on my nearly 18 year old van, I presume that start/stop technology will wear out starters faster.

If so, the energy savings from start/stop need to be offset by at least the materials and energy costs of making additional starters (and whatever else might wear out faster because of start/stop).

I’m not knocking the tech. Just thinking about how there are no free lunches.

From what I have read and rented, the starters and electrical systems are way more robust to handle the extra strain. Having driven a lot of older cars, the last thing I wanted was for the thing to shut off once it was running. Especially in cold weather or bad neighborhoods. At any rate I see the whole thing as just the tail wagging the dog to find any way to reduce emissions and improve CAFE mileage.

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Hybrids start/stop all the time. My sister’s Prius has gone 180K miles with no starter problems.

What does car do if u shift to neutral at stoplight? And take foot off brake? Will motor start? Asking OP

My Jeep has an automatic transmission, so I can’t tell you for sure. In my vehicle, the engine starts if you put it into neutral or take your foot off the brake at a stoplight. I don’t know if this feature is even available for vehicles with manual transmissions. You might try the various manufacturer’s websites to see if they have any information about this.

Very interesting post OP, thanks for sharing your experience. During neighborhood walks I’ve noticed newer non-hybrid cars – other than Jeeps – using that start/stop technique at stop signs too. It’s certainly seems possible to design that feature to be as reliable as any other feature on a car. Whether it actually is, time will tell.

Newer cars seem to use a sort of in-car computer network of many different stand alone specific purpose computers, rather than one general-purpose computer doing everything. That may be part of the reason the software updates are cumbersome for the dealership, b/c they have to verify they update w/ the correct version (revision number) of software for each component, and that varies with the vehicle configuration, manufacture date, what state the car was sold in, and what state the car is located in probably. There’s probably hundreds of different software configurations possible to choose from, and only one of those combinations works correctly for a particular car.

I doubt this will cause most owners of newer cars much grief, as the dealership is the one who carries the burden. But when the car gets to the 10+ years mark, that’s when the owner will take the hit b/c shops won’t be able to fix a problem with a 10-20 years old car as easily as they could before all this car computer technology.

Hybrids, like my Insight and the Prius, use a beefy hybrid motor for the stop-start…a different animal than a “standard” geared starter.


Update to the start/stop system. Mine has stopped functioning. I took it to the dealer and was told I don’t drive it often enough to keep the batter charged (I drive 5,000 - 8,000 miles annually, about 90% of which is in-town). They charged up the battery and the next day it functioned again - for a day, then stopped again. I’ll be going back to the dealer to have the charging system tested, and if it’s OK, have the battery replaced (it will be under warranty, they told me last time).

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Why not hook up a battery maintainer on it, say, every weekend to top it off?

As Tommy would say . . . BOOOOGUS

I’ve owned several cars that get driven less than that, and I haven’t had a problem

And I haven’t had to use a charger or booster pack

If your battery won’t keep a charge, you’ve got a problem. Possibly just a bad battery. Possibly a parasitic drain