Getting to Know the Stop-Start System

A happiness couple in a car
2019 Buick Envision offers a stop-start system. Photo: Buick.

The first time is unsettling. Those of you who have experienced it know it. It’s the heart-breaking silence that comes during your first experience with the stop-start system now standard in a lot of today’s newer vehicles. Picture this in rush hour traffic or at a stop sign. Between the act of stepping on the brake for a few seconds and stepping back on the gas, the vehicle goes silent. Within seconds every reason why this brand new vehicle has broken down starts racing through your mind, and of course none of them is your fault. You may start combing through your mind to figure out who you’re going to call to come pick you up.

What’s happening is you’re driving a vehicle with a stop-start system. It shuts the engine off when the car stops to decrease the amount of time the engine spends idling at a light or while you’re sitting in traffic, thereby reducing fuel consumption and emissions. While the engine is stopped, the interior systems (i.e. radio and air condition) run on power from the vehicle’s battery. For some, the system feels intrusive, but it appears to be here to stay thanks to mandates, executive orders and regulations from the White House, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

By 2021, according to a Navigant Research report, more than half of all light-duty vehicles sold worldwide will incorporate stop-start capability. Heavy duty vehicles, including pickup trucks and vans, are not far behind. This system, already commonplace in Europe, aims to positively impact consumer’s pocketbooks over time. Various studies, including one from AAA Driving Fuel Efficiency series, shows the annual fuel savings at five to seven percent.

For the average driver, who is not keeping track of how the latest government regulations will impact their daily drive, this relatively new system can come as an unwelcome surprise. The stop-start system is quieter with some vehicles, but with others there may be a brief shudder to let you know the engine is preparing to stop. Just know that you did nothing wrong.

Also know that you can turn the feature off.

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