Understanding Vehicle Start/Stop Systems

Start/Stop Display
I am spending time this week with a General Motors SUV that has the Auto Start/Stop system. That in itself is not problematic, but this SUV does not have a button to turn it off, which drives me crazy. While it is fresh in my mind, I thought it might be a good time to revisit these systems.

How Stop-Start Systems Work

If you are not familiar with this system, simply put, when you come to a stop, like a red light, the engine shuts down, but essential other components continue to run, like the air conditioning system, power steering, brakes, sound system, etc. When you take your foot off the brake to press the gas pedal the engine restarts and you go on your merry way. In a vehicle with a manual transmission, the system operates from the clutch pedal instead of the brake.

Improved Fuel Economy?

Automakers and the engineering community say start/stop technology improves fuel economy by 5 to 10 percent, although I am not confident in their findings. There would have to be some amount of gas savings while your vehicle is not idling, and there would be fewer emissions coming out of your tailpipe.

To put your mind at ease about the mechanics of the start/stop system, vehicles that have the system have heavy-duty starters, and they have larger batteries, which are essential since all the accessories are running strictly on the battery when the engine stops.

History of Start-Stop Systems

Although start/stop systems are fairly new to cars in the United States, it was Volkswagen who debuted it in Europe in 1983. About 10 years ago, Mazda announced a similar system that did not engage and disengage the starter, but it never really came to fruition and proved to be unreliable.

Real-World Driving

So, what are the real-world driving characteristics of this technology? I can tell you that for me, it drives me crazy, especially in heavy traffic. I drive over 100 new cars per year, and for the past year or so, most of the vehicles I drive and review do have the start/stop system. Some automakers, like Ford, have committed to putting it in every vehicle it produces.

One observation I have noticed is that the smaller the engine, the more seamless the feel of the engine turning on and off. With larger engines, you tend to feel the system more. Iíve been in cars that the engine noise going on and off is quite loud, and you actually strongly feel a vibration every time the engine cranks again. I always note in my car reviews when the system really bugs me.

Another downside I have experienced in some vehicles is when the outside temperature is high, the air conditioning system does not work nearly as well when the engine stops. A long traffic light can make the interior temperature uncomfortable. With some vehicles, when the outside temperature is hot, there is no difference in the air conditionerís output, so if you are in a hot weather area, this is something you would want to pay attention to when test-driving.

Disengaging Stop-Start

Here is the good news: almost every vehicle I drive that has start/stop also has a switch to turn the system off, but many GM SUVs recently did not have a way to disable it. If you are like me and donít like this technology, in most cases, you can turn it off. The bad news is that in almost all cases, you have to disengage the system every time you start your vehicle.

In my personal case, my Range Rover has the start/stop system and over time, I have gotten used to hitting the start button to crank the engine, then I immediately hit the button to turn off the start/stop system. If by chance I forget, I catch at the very first instance of stopping.

Right now, with low gas prices, this technology will save most people, on average, less than $50 per year, so you have to make up your mind on whether you choose to use start/stop or not. If it turns out that this technology causes starter failures at a greater rate, there will be no savings.

Final Thoughts

As I told the caller on the air, I wouldnít let start/stop be a deal breaker if the car you want has it, but be aware of it when car shopping and test-driving your next new vehicle. If the car you are considering has the system, and you donít like it, make sure it can be turned off. Also, when test driving a vehicle, ask about the system, because depending on the weather, it may not kick in on the test drive. Iíve had listeners who discovered they had the system days after buying. Iíve even had Car Pro Show listeners take their vehicles into service, thinking something was wrong.
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I have a Chevy Equinox and it started making this knocking noise. When I'm in park it knocks 3 times a few seconds apart from each other. I took it to Chevy dealership and they told me that they were pretty sure it was from the auto stop feature. The mechanic stated that new transmission fluid come into this part so when you take off again you have fresh fluid. He said when I put my equinox in park the feature is still cleaning the fluid and putting fresh fluid in, hence the knocking noise. He said he wasn't positively sure but it was most like why my car was making that noise and that it was nothing to worry about. Have you ever experienced this knocking noise with this feature? I have no way of disabling the feature either, unless the dealership can.
The Car Pro
Sorry, Iíve not heard of this and truly donít know what to tell you. I wish I could be of service.

Jerry Reynolds
I have a 2018 Chevy Equinox and I've had it for about 2 months and the auto stop has always worked like it's supposed to. But today, I drove to work ( which warmed the car up) and then a couple of hours later I had to leave, and it was chilly outside, around 33 degrees, and when I got down the road a little to the stop sign my car started jumping back and forth. I think it was trying to go into auto stop but it was too cold? I've never had this issue before. If it's been too cold, it doesn't engage the auto stop. It shook at a couple more stop lights before it didn't do it anymore. I tried it again hours later, and the car shook again the first time it was stopped before warning up. Is that normal? It's just never happened before when the car has been cold.
The Car Pro
Britt, I canít tell you for sure, sorry. Youíll need to ask your dealer. I wish I could help.

Jerry Reynolds
Samuel Goldberg
I had a real problem with start/stop when driving my wife's Ranault Captur with automatic transmission. We stopped on a traffic light on a street that goes downhill. When the light turned green, I released the brake and the car started moving downhill. The engine did not start. The car has power brakes and power steering. Without a working engine I had no steering and no brakes. In "Drive" it is impossible to start the engine. When the car runs, there is no way to shift to "Parking", which is required to start the engine. Somehow I managed to stop the car using the hand brake.
I have start/stop on my Renault Cleo as well. It has a manual transmission. In the seven years that I own this car the engine did not start by itself some three-four times. With manual transmission there was no problem to restart the engine in any gear. So on my car I like this feature. With automatic transmission this feature is a real danger!

I just don't trust that the start/stop systems are good for the engine in the long run. If you're stopped for a long time won't the oil drain to the drain pan, starting the car without lubrication? Doesn't seem good for the engine to do this repeatedly. Thanks.
The Car Pro
As annoying as these systems are, I donít view them as a danger to the engine, however, if you want to be really safe, use a synthetic oil, that will eliminate any potential problems.

Jerry Reynolds
Jerry, I found this piece so well organized, written, and helpful. I can be aware of these systems when car buying. Thanks
The Car Pro
Many thanks! It is a hot button issue with many people and I wanted to try to give everyone the good and bad. For me personally, I HATE them! Thanks for following along.

Jerry Reynolds
Hey was wondering if I'm idle in my car for some time is part of the system also shutting the car off after a certain amount of time? I use my car for work with animals so I have to leave it on and idle for longer periods of time than most people. But after about 1hr it will automatically shut off. Is that normal? Thanks :)
The Car Pro
Not sure what kind of car you have, but some vehicles DO cut off after varying amounts of time. We covered this some time ago. I hope this helps you:

The Silent Killer: Keyless Start Systems.

Jerry Reynolds
The Car Pro
Not sure what kind of car you have, but some vehicle DO cut off after varying amounts of time. We covered this some time ago. I hope this helps you:


Jerry Reynolds
I work in a dealership service department. The start/stop feature will only engage if certain conditions are met, one of which is the driver's seatbelt must be fastened. In a scenario where the car is left on with a pet inside, it will NOT shut off the engine.
Have you had any dealings with a Cadillac Xt5 luxury (2017). We just purchased it not knowing that it had the start/stop engine. I noticed it the next day. I don't show that it can be turned off. Thanks
The Car Pro
Yes, I noted that when I reviewed the 2017 XT5:

2017 XT5 Review

Jerry Reynolds
I have a 2019 sante fe sometimes when the ISG Idle stop and go feature puts the car to sleep at a light, I get ready to go and it has completely turned off. The dealership cant figure it out, bit they are not the brightest folks here in KY
The Car Pro
You need to try a different dealership. This should be a fairly simple warranty fix. I hope it works out.

Jerry Reynolds,
Unbelievable that I have to take something I don't want because some fuzzy brain decided that for me. There should be a permanent cut off not an each time system. It is 104 in my city today. When the engine cuts off either one or two things have to happen. 1- the air conditioner stops or 2- the conditioner runs off the battery. Batteries don't last but about 2 years in my climate at best. I am noit replacing my MDX with another MDX because of this issue.
The Car Pro
Sam, I agree with you but neither you or I are not going to change it. I donít remember a vehicle iíve reviewed in several years without a disable button. I wish I had better news.

Jerry Reynolds
Hi Jerry,

wondering if you could share any info on this auto on/off disable product - after market And are you aware of any other products that are reliable


I have a 2020 Yukon Denali & wonder if this one will work, or only on the Sierra/Silverado pickups?


The Car Pro
Actually yes, that is the one Iíve had VERY positive feedback on. Iíve heard of no issue at all and really seems to work.

Jerry Reynolds,
Hi all,

I just want to share that, the other day I was driving my 2019 Acura RDX, with the start/stop system engaged, I came to a stop with the gear still in "D", I accidentally discovered if the driver's seatbelt is not buckled, the start/stop system became deactivated. I tested it a few more times both ways, and got the same conclusion!
The Car Pro
Good info but I sure would never recommend leaving your seat belt off, even when at a stop. You just canít know what is going to happen.

Jerry Reynolds,
I just purchased a brand new Volkswagen Atlas and for the first time today noticed my start/stop did not engage.... which is why I read this article. Glad to know you figured out the reason... I also did not have my seat belt on yet so that must be the reason. Thank you!
I have 2020 Chevy Silverado 1500 it has the auto-stop tech...I was wondering if you change the muffler out will it affect the auto-stop tech?
The Car Pro
I honestly donít know. That is a question for your dealer.

Jerry Reynolds
You mentioned what can happen when it's hot out, but what about the other end? I've had to sit for up to 30 minutes when picking my daughter up from school. Parents are not allowed in the school, and I agree with that. Having 100's of adults coming into the school every day can lead to risks of unwanted people sneaking in to possibly harm a child.
So, what about when it's -20 degrees out? I'm supposed to sit in my car when it's -20 out and not have my heat running? As this article mentioned, some vehicles do not offer a way to disable this. I'm just waiting for the lawsuit where someone ends up with hypothermia because of this idiotic feature.

What to reduce pollution to fix global warming and the like, start with countries like India and China.
The Car Pro
It works the same way when it is cold. The car wonít cut off and if it does, the heater will continue to run. Itís not a concern.

Jerry Reynolds,
This system is designed to operate only while the vehicle is in gear (drive). If the vehicle is in park it will idle until the ignition is turned off.
You vehicle should not turn off when you put it in park, like when waiting for your child at school. Most cars and trucks will turn off after a set time, usually 20 min. If it's 10 degrees out, just restart the car. It will run for another 20 min. Note: if you touch the brake every 15 min. The timer will restart. And your car will not turn off.
Any data on the long-term impact to the starter systems?
The Car Pro
The system is still fairly new but so far, no impact to starters as we can tell.

Jerry Reynolds
Have 2019 GMC Acadia with auto stop with less than 12,000 miles. Car wouldn't crank. Starter and flywheel went bad. Don't know if starter went bad and took out flywheel or the other way around. I hear these starters are very expensive to replace. Dealer has had the vehicle for a month but that's ok. The loaner is nicer than ours.
The Car Pro
Sorry to hear for the problem, but doubt itís related to start/stop. So far, Iíve seen no evidence of any damage resulting from this system. Glad you got a nice loaner!

Jerry Reynolds

Any data on the impact to the starter over time?
The Car Pro
The system is still fairly new but so far, no impact to starters as we can tell.

Jerry Reynolds
Jerry, for me the lack of an OFF switch for auto-start-stop would be a deal breaker in almost all cases. My wife's back is very sensitive to bumps & jerks and the starting jerk, which seems to be accelerator triggered, in our '19 Subaru Forester is obnoxious.
The Car Pro
I agree about it being a deal breaker, it is certainly for me. Hopefully the automakers will figure out that there needs to be disable switch that is full time.

Thanks for listening!

Jerry Reynolds
Jerry, I have a 2017 Acura MDX which has the Start/Stop function. While I'm not a big fan of the feature I believe Acura's feature works better than what is being described here. It does have the deactivation button as most do. I also use the Auto-Hold feature regularly. I find that the car will only auto-stop when the engine is warmed up. If the auto-stop activates the engine will automatically restart if the Airconditioning needs to operate, so during hot weather the engine only stop for a brief period of time. Also, which in "auto-hold" a slight tug of the steering wheel or a tap on the brake pedal will start the engine when I think a stop light is about to turn green. Also, the Start/Stop doesn't operate when I have the Drive sector in S (sport) mode. But, I don't like the lag when in auto-hold and I forget to tug the wheel and I have to step on the accelerator to start the engine.
I have a 2018 F-150 with the start/stop feature. I inadvertently discovered that by installing aftermarket LED light strip to the trailer lighting wiring, the computer assumes that I have a trailer hooked up and disables the start/stop feature.
The Car Pro
Yes, Iíve talked about this on the show. A trailer plug in, even with the wires cut off will accomplish this too. GOOD to hear from you!

Jerry Reynolds
Nice comment re the LED benefits.
Don N
Thank you,
You can disable it Permanently on Ford cars and trucks. Go to your battery there is a little wire with the connection switch unplug it and it kills it forever. No need to push the button anymore :)
The Car Pro
Good tip Patrick, thanks for sharing!

Jerry Reynolds
While my wife's 2015 Audi was in for regular maintenance they gave me a 2019 A5. It had stop/start but I quickly learned by modulating the brake pressure I could stop the car but keep the car from shutting off. The pedal seemed to have a decent amount of travel and stopping safely did not seem to be an issue. I also noticed on a number of rental cars that if I needed to pull out quickly from a stop I could simply ease up on the brakes and the car would start but not start moving.
The Car Pro
THANKS for the info,. Every vehicle has different characteristics. The Traverse I just had you could defeat it but dropping into low when you stop.

Thanks for listening!

Jerry Reynolds
Our 2017 Highlander operates very similar. Unless you press fairly hard on the brake pedal, the engine does not stop after the vehicle is no longer in motion. If the battery is charging, the steering wheel is turned, the seatbelt unfastened, the gear shift is placed in park, or the climate control needs to be running, among other things, the stop feature does not engage. This has not been a problem for me, but for someone who is heavy on the brakes, it is more noticeable.
The Car Pro
Good info Gary, thanks for sharing!

Jerry Reynolds
I purchased a 2018 Chevy Equinox in2018 that has the Auto-Stop feature. At first, I didn't like it but got used to it. In October of 2019, the auto-stop no longer worked. I took it to the dealer that we purchased it from on September 2, 2019, to have it worked on. After waiting for almost 5 hours the service manager came out and said that they checked everything and found nothing wrong with the system, but it still didn't work. A couple of days later the service manager called and asked me to bring it back in, that he had a different technician that he wanted to look at it. So I took it back on September 9th. Same results, they could find nothing wrong with it, but he said it still didn't work. When I left the dealer, the auto-stop system did in fact work? So for two whole weeks, it worked just fine, then nothing again. This time I called GM and made a complaint about it not working. I was assigned a case number and was told that someone would call me back in two days. No one called, so I called back. They said that they called the service manager and was told that they could find nothing wrong with the system. So he told me that there was nothing that they could do since it worked as it should. I told them, hey wait, it doesn't work the way it should, that it doesn't shut down when you came to a stop. So he said that he would have to escalate the complaint to the next level and that some would call me back that day. No one called after several days of waiting I called again. This time I got a different person. He looked up my complaint and said that he would forward it to another department, that someone would call me in two days. No one called me back so I called again. I got the first guy that I talked to this time and he said that the second person that I talked to forwarded it to the wrong department, that is why no one called me back. Got a callback and after going over with that person he said he would call the service manager and find out what was going on. He called me back and suggested taking the car to a different dealer. So I made an appointment with one just down the street from me. I took it in and left the car with the dealer. The next day at noon he called back and said that they found the problem, but that they had to flash the memory of the computer with an update that would take four hours, that it should be finished by 4 pm. They never called back but did the next day and said that it was now working and ready to pick up, so we just got back with the car from the dealer and it is at the moment, working as planned. Oh, the problem that they found was a bad connection to the ECM. Also they found a service bulliten to reprogram the ECM 92886238). They also tested the battery and had to repace it due to a GR8 test falure.
The Car Pro
Thanks for sharing your story. I often suggest to listeners to try a different service dept. You proved that can make the difference.

Thanks for listening!

Jerry Reynolds
I have a 2018 Toyota Highlander with this Stop/Start feature. It works reliably as it is designed. With your foot firmly on the brake, the engine stops until you remove your foot from the brake. There is a disable button as Jerry has described, though you must disable it every time you use the push-button to start. Even that irks me - let it default to the setting that I choose.

I don't know about gas savings, though I suspect there are some modest savings. My problem with the system is that there is a lag time between when you take your foot off the brake and when the engine starts and is ready to accelerate. That little lag is a potential problem if you need to get out of harm's way quickly.
I have a Volkswagon Atlas with that feature and it kept running the battery down so that I couldn't start it. Back to the dealer twice before they replaced the battery under warranty and that taught me to disable the feature. Not nice to strand the mom-mobile when trying to take or pick-up kids from school!
If you wonder why every car has this nonsense technology? This is from the Washington Times.

�The manufacturers will also get mpg credits for adopting efficient technologies that often show no effect on the official test cycles. These include active grille shutters, electric heat pumps, stop-start systems, high-efficiency lights, and solar roof panels. The credit for such items could amount to about 3 mpg if several are used or even more if a manufacturer provides data to justify it.�
The Car Pro
Good info! THANKS!

Jerry Reynolds
Three years ago my wife and I rented a Skoda with start/stop technology at the Copenhagen airport and drove to Prague and back. To be sure, the Skoda is a weakling, but the start/stop technology simply degrades vehicle performance. Driving around Berlin for a couple of days, we learned that accelerating from stop lights problematic; the car couldn't be counted on to get up and go. It simply dragged it's derriere across intersections. To think that a Toyota Supra has this sort of technology is difficult to imagine. Do the new Mustangs or the mid-engine Corvettes have start/stop technology.?
The Car Pro
Most cars do but as long as it has a disable button, I'm OK with it, you get used to turning it off.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Jerry Reynolds
The Chevrolet Traverse and Equinox you can add to the list of cars that does not have the ability to shut off the stop/start technology.
You can also add Subaru Forester '19. The simple fact that this feature cannot be permanently turned off is one of the dumbest things ever designed for two reasons, safety and mechanical failure. If I am stopped and the car turns off, and if something is headed my way and I need to move out of the way, I guarantee you, those lost seconds will mean the world. And continually engaging the starter will decrease that life a ton.
Is there a list out that has the cars with the start/go feature and the ones that have the ability to shut it off.
The Car Pro
I don't know of such a list. I'd assume most have it, and most (except for some GM vehicles) will allow you to disable.

Jerry Reynolds
Sandi R
In your opinion which small SUV is the best that doesn't have the start/ stop feature?
The Car Pro
Sandi, I don't really know of any small SUVs that don't have, but most have a disable button you get used to hitting every time you start the car. Some of the GM SUVs do not have the button.

Typically Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V are the most reliable in small SUVs.

Jerry Reynolds,
My 2018 Mazda CX-5 does not have it, but it has cylinder deactivation to save gas, which in my opinion is even worse.
Mark Ridley
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross does not have it and was one of the main reasons I bought the car. Totally useless function and at the very least cars that have it should have a switch where you can permanently turn it on or off.
Darrin Francis
My elderly father just purchased a 2019 Chevy Equinox with the auto Shut-off (start/stop) feature. The safety issue he encountered was that after pulling into a parking spot, we were showing him how to use the touchscreen features, when the car shut off. After a little while of exploring the features, my brother opened his passenger door and got out. My father opened his door and proceeded to get out when the car started up and took off!!! Enough time had elapsed from when the engine shut off, that he forgot he didn't shut the engine off. This is a huge safety issue!!! I would like to comment that RAM (Chrysler) vehicles will not move if the doors are open and GM had better reconfigure their vehicles before they get sued!!! If my father had fallen from the vehicle and gotten run over, we'd be very rich right now, but I would never want him to get injured. That's why I'm posting this!
Amy P.
I have not heard of this happening before but can see how it could. Stress to him to put it in park immediately when stopped and it's a good idea to set the emergency brake also.

This is an aftermarket device to disable it:


Glad everything turned out ok.

Jerry Reynolds
The car took off? How? I have been using start stop for years and to "restart" from stop your foot has to be on the gas. Makes me wonder if his car is defective?
Besides not noticing he didn't turn the truck off, he might also have not put the transmission in PARK. Then when he took his foot off the gas to get out, the engine started and began to move.
On my 2018 GMC Terrain, all you have to do is take your foot off the brake and the car starts back. This is a super annoying feature and I could definitely see the car taking off if you're not careful. What makes me extremely mad is I might be getting ready to back up and the engine shuts off. Or I'll be at a complete stop and the person behind me might not be paying attention and run in to the back of me. That does scare me. All cars should have been made with a disable switch.
The Car Pro
I agree and have been saying this on air for few years. When you come to a stop, you can shift into low gear to disable, then shift back to drive when you start rolling.

Jerry Reynolds
Carolyn Fisher
I own a 2016 Chevy Malibu with the stop/start engine. I have had it back to my Chevy dealer because the stop/start will NOT disengage. Each time they would "work" on it to get it working. This went on for 4 visits! Last visit on February 7, 2019 the car was out of warranty and the bill was $386.00 but they gave me a 50% discount because it was happening when car was still under warranty. What they did was reprogram this system . Now, April 4th, it"s happening again

I want someone to tell me what could be wrong and how to fix it! Also. I would like to know if the transmission and engine is being damaged by my continue to drive it. Honestly, I would prefer it didn't work because it drives me crazy!!! I'm a 78 year old single woman and not financially secure to trade this car in.
Amy P.
Carolyn, I would call the Service Manager at your dealership and get him or her involved. They should fix it again with no charges to you since you paid the last time. They are missing something, hopefully the Service Manager can assist.

There is no evidence yet that the system is harmful to engines or transmissions, it's just annoying.

Good luck!

Jerry Reynolds
I would put a disable stop/start switch on your car, Ebay sells them for some vehicles.
If they can't fix the same problem in 3 tries, the car come under the lemon law. See an attorney.
l had some stopping problem when l stop at the red light my engine stop when my foot is on the brake when l took my foot off it starts again l checked the manual and it was explained that it is a new concept in the US it was very helpful now l know the reason for that it is to save fuel,which is great,

Ken I am getting good reports on a disable device at www.4dtech.com. If you can this for $100, I think it is money well spent.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network


ok THE IDEA THAT THIS STOP/START FEATURE SAVES ON FUEL IS UTTER NONSENSE SINCE IT COST MORE TO TURN THE CAR OFF AND RESTART IT THAN IT DOES TO LET IT IDLE FOR THE SHORT PERIOD OF TIME IT IS OFF. sorry for the cap locks. I have a 2018 Chevrolet Equinox and the problem with the auto/stop feature is 90% of the time it does not work as designed and there are other times that the car stutters when stopped cause it does not auto stop. they have reprogrammed it twice with no change the car is starving for fuel and not shutting off and that too will waste fuel. There is no way to disable the feature on the 2018 models I am told or trust me that would have already happened as the feature is the dumbest thing ever designed on a vehicle. It never shuts off when the AC is on no matter what I have read here and another thing is a bigger battery means more money to replace it when the feature ends up killing it and the same with the starter so therefore I have had it with Chevrolet/GM and I worked for them until I got tired of being laid off every other month and took a buyout. the Dodge Journey is a much nicer SUV and I believe I have owned my last Chevrolet due to the stupidity of this feature and the Dealerships inability to FIX the problem of it not working and telling me it works properly...I am not stupid I was a certified Mechanic before becoming disabled and I know for a fact they do not make money fixing cars under warranty so they just say it works fine!

There is an aftermarket bypass module that plugs in under the hood. No splicing required, plug and play. This should an option from the car manufactures.
Ben Whitten
4dtech only works with Fords and Lincolns.