CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Question about Hybrid Engines

I’m looking at getting a 2013 Ford Fusion and am considering the hybrid model because most of my driving is in metro ATL and I’m looking to save money on fuel and be more efficient; however my husband thinks that the hybrid’s engine design where it shuts off the gasoline engine frequently to conserve fuel while stopped at lights, etc. damages the gasoline engine. Can anyone provide any clarity? What are the potential issues with a hybrid engine (besides having to replace the batteries)? Is my husband’s concern warranted? Thanks in advance for the advice and help!

It’s designed to be started and stopped a lot. It won’t damage it.

If you stop the engine long enough to let the oil drain from the gears and rings, you will indeed provide “some” extra wear on the engine, but for a short interval like a stop light or running on electric power this is surely not a problem (letting an engine idle for a long time instead of shutting it off also increases engine wear so it’s probably a wash). Hybrids provide electric power assist when you take off from a stop, and this puts less wear and tear on the engine. Features like regenerative braking put less wear and tear on the brakes.

Hybrids have been around long enough to get good info on battery longevity and from what I’ve read, even though they add complexity, batteries have been pretty anvil-like in their durability.

We’ve had a hybrid since '05 and it’s been exceptionally reliable but not terribly exciting, like most hybrids have been. We have been somewhat disappointed in its mileage, like many hybrid owners are, but because we received the original hybrid rebate from the taxpayers (thank you, by the way), we’ve come out ahead financially.

What they said. I have a Ford hybrid ('11 MKZ) and am happy with it. I average 37 mpg (lifetime). The new Fusion hybrid, while rated quite a bit higher, seems to be giving real world values in the 40 mpg range.

And I wouldn’t give the stop/start issue a second thought, they’re desiged for it.

The Fusion system is one of the most advanced…You won’t even notice the engine starting and stopping. Take one out for a test ride, you will be amazed…

Thanks so much again for the feedback! I really appreciate it - very helpful.

If you were to do this with an engine not designed for repeated shutting down and restarting, you would in fact suffer premature wear. However, the new hybrids are designed to operate this way without damage and have been around long enouugh to prove their mettle.

In short, I understand hubby’s concern, but it’s unnecessary.

The Prius has an enviable reliability record, all accomplished with a gas motor that shuts off and restarts frequently. Gasoline powered golf carts do as well…Guess hubby either doesn’t play golf, uses electric carts or walks, or doesn’t pay attention.

When my girlfriend was thinking about buying a hybrid, I talked her out of it, mainly because I underestimated how much driving she would be doing with it. Fortunately, she chose a non-hybrid for other reasons, but she probably should have gotten one.

Oh, and the stop-start technology won’t hurt a thing.

Stop-start is used a lot in Europe for all vehicles. The cars are designed to account for this and they are none the worse for it.

well, why don’t Ford put one of those starters on all their vehicled. Never have to replace a starter again. (or flywheel either).

“well, why don’t Ford put one of those starters on all their vehicled.”

Because the ‘starter’ on Ford and Toyota hybrids is one of the 2 large electric motors. There’s not a separate starter motor. And that’s why one never wants the big hybrid battery to go dead. Jumping is not an option, IIRC.

How long do you plan on keeping car? Till warranty runs out? Or 10 yrs?

fueleconomy.gov has a calculator on their website that’ll compare the hybrid and standard vehicles and determine how much you might save, and how long it would take to recoup the difference in cost.
With my style of driving, it’d take 20 years for me to make up the difference

Stopping the engine does no appreciable wear or damage. There might be some maintenance needed down the line to replace the starter motor selenoid contacts from the repeated starts. I think the owners of 10 year old hybrids still on the road are reporting these cars have been highly reliable. This isn’t an issue.

The main complaint I’ve heard from hybrid owners is that the car is a little sluggish. Not quite as peppy compared to a regular car. Maybe this is your husband’s actual concern. Does he like fast accelerations?

Our city has installed computerized intersections with ground sensors. I have to go through two intersections with controlled left turns on a 2way street, I swear that when I am at these lights in my gas car, the lights are set for eternity against you. But when I am with wife in her hybrid, the lights always in her favor or the lights are very short.

Have you noticed that when a fire truck, lights and siren going, the traffic lights don’t turn green for the truck to transit the intersection, but remains red against you and against the cross traffic. Light will turn green after firetruck is l blocks past.

II think the traffic computer knows me, and for some reason doesn’t want me to continue through. I need another hybrid a stop watch to time the light. If you are in a low mileage vehicle turn off the engine-If in a high mileage engine, not worth the effort–

I think firetrucks have a gadget which transmits to the traffic light controller and sets the traffic lights in the truck’s favor so the truck can get to the emergency faster.

I hear a concern frequently voiced by “car guys” that when an engine is started it takes awhile for the oil to get to all the parts that need lubrication, therefore, your engine suffers the most wear when it is started. I think this is a way over rated issue that is used to sell rip-off oil additives. If a metal part has motor oil on it, you could probably put it in the sink and scrub it with Dawn dish detergent and you would have a hard time getting the oil off of it. An engine will not drain dry and run without lubrication when it is started up. It may run without oil pressure for a half second or so, but there’s oil in those bearings to cover for that time. I think the worst that happens is sometimes it takes the hydraulic lifters a second or so to pump up.

@GeorgeSanJose
Supposedly so. But I think what happens is that when the signal is triggered, the intersection lights still must cycle the cross traffic to yellow then to red. What ever the reasons, the EM vehicles mostly go thru the red lights, leaving us common folks to needlessly wait out the lights. You do know, I’m just funning-but there is some merit in killing your engine at long stop lights. I definitely kill the engine at the train crossings-Someone on this show(?) said more than ~20 seconds, you’d be better off killing the engine.

I think today’s engines are made a whole lot better. I’ve run a 2 cycle on straight gas (inadvertantly). It’s still running, these many years.

The second oil change, I put on a wrong oil filter, which blew out, and I drove car back home the half mile w/o oil. ('87 Camry 4 cyc) still running with good milage at 250K on the odometer.