while driving a friend somewhere recently, he told me [after my car had stalled and I re-started it in gear] that I should only start a standard transmission in neutral because it hurts something to start in gear. Is this true, and if so, what damage is done?
If you start the car with it in gear, your poor starter motor not only has to turn the engine parts over it also has to move the entire drivetrain and vehicle! That’s a lot of work for a motor not designed for it. Too much work.
Unless, of course, you’ve pushed the clutch pedal disconnecting the engine from the drive train. In that case it’s perfectly harmless as long as you reengage the clutch smoothly.
Maybe he’s talking about the throwout bearing, which is one reason why you don’t sit at a stoplight with the clutch pedal depressed. I think as long as you’re not doing it all the time, there shouldn’t be a problem.
I’d think it’s better to restart the engine quickly if it stalls on the road, and going into neutral (and then right back out) can take time, perhaps all the time needed for that guy behind you to look from behind his Slurpee, foot-long hoagie, newspaper and cell phone and realize that he can’t stop in time.
Assuming that you’re starting w/ the clutch fully depressed, I think that your friend is a bit nutty. Most cars w/ manuals won’t start w/out the clutch engaged - its designed to work that way - and w/ the clutch in you’re not hurting anything.
I assume you had the clutch pedal pushed in when you turned the key to Start (on most modern cars, this is a necessity). If so you are doing it correctly; the position of the gearshift is completely immaterial. You hurt nothing by starting the car in gear. Your friend is not as knowledgeable as he assumes. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether to educate him or leave him ignorant.
My last three stick shift cars and truck all had safety switches on the clutch that would only allow the starter to engage when the clutch pedal was fully depressed, and putting the throw-out bearing fully against the clutch. Never had a throwout bearing problem. And, I’ve started with the trans in gear and out. With the clutch fully depressed, that doesn’t matter at all. The OP’s friend is offering bogus advice.
As long as the clutch is pushed all the way to the floor, then no, there is no harm being done. I only drive stick shift cars, and have for more than 30 years. That’s how I always start them, in gear with clutch to the floor. All new cars make you have the clutch to the floor for starting whether you are in gear or not, so the throwout bearing issue is moot.