Dear Tom and Ray:
I have a push-button start on my car. When I start the car, I have found that you just need to push the button and let it go, and the car starts. However, my husband insists on keeping the button pushed in until the car actually starts. I say that this is like "grinding the starter" and will eventually cause a problem. I'm tired of nagging him. Is he causing damage to my car? We never keep our cars for more than five to six years, so if you tell me it will take much longer than this to actually cause a problem, I will shut up (not!). — Barbara
Ray: It's a good question, Barbara. We don't know the answer in every case, but we do have some data to report.
Tom: We took a couple of the push-button-start-equipped cars that the manufacturers were kind enough to let us test-drive for review, and went out to see if we could burn out the starters!
Ray: We held the start button down for varying lengths of time, and it made no difference whatsoever. When you pushed the start button, the starter would crank for a second or two, until the engine caught, and then it would stop cranking — no matter how long you held your finger on the button.
Tom: My guess is that all, or certainly most, cars with a push-button ignition work this way. We can tell you from experience that VWs and Lexuses do.
Ray: By the way, I'm sure both manufacturers are happy to learn that the starters on the cars they loaned us are still intact!
Tom: And Barbara, you'll be happy to learn that your husband is not doing any harm to your car.
Ray: Or maybe you won't be happy to learn that, because then you have to stop nagging him about it. On the other hand, I'm sure you can get on him for those unsightly fingerprints he's always leaving on your starter button.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)