Thursday, May 14, 2015


Starter buttons back
As new cars' "feature"


OVER THE YEARS I have driven a number of cars.

One, a "3 on the post stick shift" had the starter button under the clutch pedal; the clutch had to be pressed to the floorboard to press the starter button, assuring the car would not move even if it was in gear - the clutch disengaged the gears. equating to "Neutral" in automatic transmissions.

Later I had a car with a push button starter on the dashboard. I don't recall if the vehicle was a stick shift - 3 on the post or 4 on the floor - but manual or automatic, the button was moved from the floorboard to the dash. Either the clutch had to be engaged (if a manual transmission) or the automatic had to be in Park or Neutral for the starter to engage.

Then came the integrated key/starter assembly found on most cars even today.

Now, today's "modern" flivver once again sports a starter button.

THE STARTER BUTTON is a feature on some of the pricier models; the image is from an Audi "TT." CarMax has (had) a 2014 Audi "TT" listed for a few dollars less than $40k.

THERE IS A PROBLEM, it turns out, with separating the starter from the ignition switch.

Apparently there is no way to turn off the car's engine - other than to press the START button again.

After years of driving cars that are shut off when a key is turned, it is easy for many drivers to forget to press START to stop (the engine).

There have been several incidents where a driver has left the vehicle, thinking the engine was off only to watch as the vehicle moved off on its own - motor running, transmission engaged.

In the "olde days" of pushbutton starters on the floorboard or on the dash, the only thing the starter button did was activate the starter mechanism; once the engine "caught," the starter was released. Turning the ignition key shut off the engine (as could a number of other things such as the '49 Chevy's upside-down distributor cap when it fell off - been there, done that).

I'm a geezer - it beats the alternative - and I've had sticks (3 on the post and many on the floor) and automatics. I've not tried the flipper gear shifts - they remind me of many lunchtime hours playing pin ball at the kiosk just off Miami High's campus, "back in the day."

I don't consider a START switch, even one with both START and STOP painted on the button, to be progress. From a risk management point of view, asking drivers to relearn a process to kill an engine is asking for trouble.

Is there something "sexy" about a START button? Does carrying one less key really make a difference?

One thing about the Start/Stop button, it is NOT foolproof. Something needs to be done to assure that when a driver leaves the driver's seat, the vehicle automatically shuts down or, as t minimum locks the transmission or the axel(s) to prevent the unattended vehicle from moving.

What next? A return of the hand crank to start the vehicle?

1914 Ford Model T touring car
Note hand crank above license plate
Note the woman behind the wheel


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