Under the Hood: No stop-start kill switch in Cruze

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

November 20, 2017

Q: We are writing to you with a suggestion and a good question about it. Suggestion: Like many new vehicles, our Chevy Cruze has the stop/start feature. We understand its purpose; but it is most annoying in many ways. We found an easy workaround that negates this annoying feature; and it may be worth sharing the idea with others. At startup, we put the shift lever in L gear and then paddle shift to L6. The Cruze goes through all normal gears when driving; but the engine does not shut down at stops. We are annoyed no longer. And, there is no doubt that the battery and starter motor will live a longer life using this L6 option. My question: Does driving in L6 around town and/or on the highway hurt the transmission is any way?

Brent, Barb & Micah E.

A: Ugh! No stop-start disable switch? Most cars and light trucks employing stop-start technology have them, and thereís a lot of folks who are grateful for the button, even though it must be pressed each time the vehicle is driven. Stopping the engine while the vehicle is at rest and quickly restarting it as oneís foot comes off the brake pedal got its start with hybrid vehicles and European gas and diesel vehicles where their emissions-mileage certification drive cycle has about twice as much idle time as we do in the States. Stop-start is a fairly inexpensive means of achieving perhaps a 5 to 10 percent fuel-economy gain and reducing emissions on a wide scale. While hybrids do much better on fuel economy and emissions, theyíre only a small fraction of the vehicle fleet, and stop-start is now found on most new vehicles sold.

A typical gas engine vehicle will wait till the engine and catalytic converter are at operating temperature and the battery is well charged before employing the feature. There are additional hurdles to overcome. An electric pump maintains automatic transmission fluid pressure, and air conditioning and heating, to some degree, will require a restart within a couple of minutes to function well.

Done well, typically using a hybridís motor-generator, operation is seamless and quiet, and the huge hybrid battery and electric A/C compressor allows long engine-off periods. Others use a beefed-up starter and heavy-duty AGM battery, and sometimes things can get a little jerky. Your Cruze gets higher marks than many for smooth starts, but I can appreciate the desire to cancel operation, at least during certain driving situations.

Hacking the system using the shifter as you have will cause no issues, as, with the exception of second gear, manual shifting basically sets the upper-gear limit in operation. Selecting the top gear will simply allow normal automatic shifting functions. This would be a great time to ask folks for their input on stop-start favorites and dogs! Iíll compile and forward the results.