Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation


I may be alone in doing this, but I’d appreciate any feedback I can get.

Apropos of Al Gore’s admonition that a car idling more than 15 seconds is wasting gas, I routinely shut down for most traffic lights (in addition to the occasional train). Ergo, my question is this: Am I sending my starter (or anything else) to an early grave, otherwise being penny-wise and pound-foolish?

Yes. Perhaps Al will pay for the repairs…

Yes, you are. The starter in your car isn’t made for this kind of use unless you drive a hybrid.

Mountainbike and Whitey are correct. I suggest that you ignore Al’s ill-conceived automotive advice.

I don’t doubt that technically, Al Gore is correct. I just wonder if his limo driver shuts his car down along with the air on his way to the UN in July in NYC.
I respect all that is said and done by “big” Al with respect to global warming.

But, you and I starting and stopping cars will cause more problems with stalled cars in traffic than it’s worth. It’s just an informational analogy to make a point. I wouldn’t act upon it.

BTW, I’d leave mine running just to listen to Rush and keep the air or heater on.

Dagosa, Gore Doesn’t Have To Do Any Of That! He Buys Carbon Offsets!

It’s the rest of us that have to conserve. Our President has the White House so hot inside that people have to strip down when they enter. I kid you not. If you see Al let him know that the closest 18 towns near me have their citizens letting water run 24 hours a day to keep the water mains from freezing and breaking. The climate change has brought us one of the coldest January’s ever recorded. One city near Detroit in Michigan has had forty-odd mains break in the past week. The Mayor declared an emergency because they don’t have enough employees to fix the damage estimated at $150,000 so far, for the week.

I am hoping that global warming becomes a reality and soon! My natural gas bill for January was $386.20. Rush won’t be back til Tuesday.

It’s a mistake, and you are wearing out your starter. It’s not designed for that much use. All the shifting isn’t good, either, you might miss it one time and get into a fender bender. You’ll save much more gas by careful driving, anyway.

It was 2 degrees F at my house this morning.
Bring on the global warming! I’m looking forward to it! Big Al, parade your cavalcade of overstuffed SUVs back and forth to your private jet all you want!

Lets all sing it together, “bring back that good ol’ triatomic oxygen”.

Let’s continue this debate…in ten years.

Dagosa, I’m Missing It. Why In Ten Years?

i’d say at stop lights it is a bad idea to shut off your car (not to mention annoying to the cars behind you due to the delay in starting the car when the light does turn green), and does cause excessive wear to your starter. technically, having the engine on any time you’re not on the gas pedal is a waste of gas. the 15 seconds is a rather arbitrary figure.
i don’t know the context of what you’re quoting, but i’d assume Al was referring more to idling while you wait for a friend to come out of the house, or while someone else runs in “real quick” to the store, etc. nonessential idling should be avoided.

Yep, gas is cheaoer and easer to install than a starter

When a starter is designed how does the designer decide on how “robust” of a starter he wants to create? Is it it hours of operation? or number of engagements,number of revolutions?.

If I had to say the weakest link in a starter I would have to say brushes,bearings and then electrical contacts in the solenoid.Not so tough to make these better.
How can you say how many cranks a starter has in it? The “not designed for it response” is lacking. Many people (reported on this forum) get 10yrs out of their car battery,certainly not designed for it.

All you can say about the effects of shutting the engine off more is that you will be starting it more,if this empties the pool of available starts no one knows,we don’t know how deep the pool is.

If the circumstance was cranking so long and frequent that the starter overheats. The life shortening effects would be clear. The effects of a normal 2 to 5second crank are hard to place on a starters life.

Too bad one of my coworkers doesn’t believe that.
He has, I believe, an 01 Caravan that he doesn’t drive during the winter time, it’s his vacation vehicle. He starts it randomly during the winter time and lets it idle about half an hour he says. Says it’s good for the engine that the fuel doesn’t gum up in the lines and injectors(at first he said carbs, but corrected himself, after I asked if the van was old enough to have a carb.) and such.
I’ve told him that idling the engine like that is worse than if you didn’t start it at all during the winter if you put something like Sta-Bil in the fuel tank.

I guess Dagosa isn’t going to answer.

In ten years the debate about the global warming and its causes should be settled for the most part. There will still be some fringe conspiracy theorists who refuse to accept evolution and that the Earth has been around for millions of years in spite of all the evidence. But other than those folks, the debate should be settled one way or the other.

Either that or Dagosa thinks we will all be too old to remember having this discussion.

If the “not designed for it” response is lacking, I will be happy to elaborate.

According to Bosch (who makes a “stop and start” kit for non-hybrids):

For the Bosch start-stop approach, developers have designed a specially adapted starter, the Smart Starter Motor. There is no need for any further adjustments to the drive train or the engine. This gives the system its excellent cost-benefit ratio, and makes it so attractive compared with alternative systems. The number of engine starts the starter has to make ? its service life, in other words ? has been significantly increased for this application. In addition, the starter’s improved-performance electric motor, and a low-noise, stronger pinion-engaging mechanism ensure that the engine starts reliably, quickly, and quietly. Despite the increased number of functions, the starter is compact, and can be integrated into the vehicle just as easily and quickly as other starters. (

Bosch developers also designed a special starter for the start/stop system that the company has been supplying to BMW since March (2007). Moreover, Bosch already produces the battery sensor that is needed to detect the battery’s current state of charge and to communicate this information to the energy management system. A regulation software module can be integrated into the engine control units. (

I hope that is an adequate explanation since particular specifications seem to be protected trade secrets.

You are right that we don’t know how deep the pool is. That doesn’t change the fact that if you increase the amount of water removed from the pool from two quarts per day to two gallons per day, you end up with an empty pool sooner.

Back to Oldschool’s point, I’d suggest that the weakest point in the typical starter assembly is the contacts that energize the starter windings. They seem to be what most commonly goes first, which makes sense if you consider what they do.

I know that some hybrids start and stop the engines, effecting far mor estarter cycles then nonhybrids. I wonder…what did they do to make the contacts so robust? Gold?

Excellent,you have done your homework

Do All Those Hybrid Starters Use A Gear To Turn The Engine Over?

There are other methods have been developed and used on engines. Gears engaging constantly can lead to problems. Additionally, some kind of a compression release system would take strain off the starting system and allow a lighter-duty system, too. Do any employ that? I’m not into any of the current hybrids. I’m just curious for when they become practical.

I guess no one knows how many starts a starter has in it but any one should know the more you use it, the sooner it quits. It is not like a human body, it doesn’t need the excercise.