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Background

Remote starters are a nice feature in the winter when getting the car warmed up and windshield defrosted before going out to wipe snow off the vehicle can make a big difference in time & comfort.

With remote starters combined with keyless ignition systems, I understand that upon opening the door to the remotely-started running vehicle, the engine turns off (for theft prevention I imagine). The operator then needs to restart the ignition upon entering the car with the keyless ignition fob.

Question

I'm wondering: do remote starters increase engine wear substantially on keyless ignition vehicles? Why I worry they might:

A: Turning off and starting the car with air, defrosters, seat heating if available, may or may not be bad for the car. I've been told by mechanics it's best to turn these features off when leaving the car, because starting the vehicle with the air and all immediately blasting is bad (maybe for power consumption?) This is one area I'm uncertain.

B: I imagine turning an engine off and back on immediately is probably not great for power consumption and engine wear. If it isn't done often, no big deal. The remote-start keyless-ignition system describes above makes it a routine process, particularly in extreme weather when remote-start would be used most often and when the vehicle systems are under the most ambient stress. How bad does the added wear & tear become then?

'Substantially' is sort of subjective, but it's important here as I'm sure there's some wear & tear but how much does it matter. So to clarify, by 'substantial' I mean reducing longevity of important systems in the vehicle by years or tens of thousands of miles, or increasing necessary routine maintenance.

  • That wouldn't really make much sense. Cars are engineered to be turned on and off reliably. Also it's reasonable to have total faith in vehicle designers to effectively mitigate any reliability problems that could occur by having electronics on when the vehicle starts (read: worst case alternator runs immediately on start - this is the only source of potential engine load from electronics), by e.g. turning them off during ignition (even most keyed cars don't provide accessory power when the ignition switch is in the start position, to allow enough juice for the starter motor). – Jason C Oct 20 '16 at 16:39
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    @Agent_L I think in the weather I'd want the remote starter for, neighbors won't mind. Good to consider though! – cr0 Oct 22 '16 at 16:07
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    @cr0 If it's really cold were you live, maybe consider a Webasto-style heater? Not only 0 wear on the engine, it's also (supposedly) more fuel efficient than idling engine. – Agent_L Oct 24 '16 at 16:51
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    @Agent_L I'd never heard of a Webasto-style heater but reading a bit about it, it does make sense. I'll need to learn more about those kinds of options around me, pricing, more about how it works. Thanks for the useful tangent. – cr0 Oct 25 '16 at 15:43
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    For the sake of correctness it's probably worth mentioning that not all push-to-start vehicles kill the engine upon the door opening when remote started. After the door is opened, some do check for a key. If it's missing, it shutdown once the brakes are pressed or the engine revs. – isaacparrot Oct 30 '16 at 4:34
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Modern cars turn off all electronics when starting the engine. Ever notice how your radio cuts out when you start your car? Turning a car on and off isn't a big deal. UPS does this at every single stop to save fuel. The fuel cost savings beats any increased cost for maintenance.

Change your oil regularly, follow your maintenance schedule. Starting your car and letting it idle in the winter for a few minutes is so far down the list of things that matters to the longevity of your vehicle that it's not worth worrying about.

  • The worry is more in the turning it off and immediately on again, and in turning it on initially going from cold to full-blast electronics. I think in your answer you're saying neither of those is really an issue though. – cr0 Oct 20 '16 at 15:00
  • I should also add that many cars have these days start-stop technology implemented in a very crude manner: you just spec up the starter a bit to withstand more start-stop cycles. It is not a problem to stop an engine and start it soon afterwards, as the parts are already covered in oil. The initial start is the problem for non-hybrid vehicles, as the first combustion stroke occurs with little oil over the parts (a hybrid vehicle first rotates the engine to idling RPM electrically to distribute oil around the engine and only after it is at correct RPM will it inject fuel). – juhist Feb 2 '17 at 15:30
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Yes, you will see increased wear. Having the engine warm up by idling at no load is inefficient: because there's no load, the engine will produce little heat and take a long time to warm up. Engine wear is worse when the engine is cold.
When you start the engine and drive off immediately, the load helps the engine warm up quicker.

Leaving electric loads like the rear window heater and seat heaters switched on actually helps warm up the car because you're creating a bit of additional load on the engine. Running the cabin heater makes the engine take longer to warm up.

For more efficient alternatives, look at an electric engine block heater, or a fuel-powered stationary heater like the Webasto unit mentioned in the comments.

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I would say it is actually better for your engine as it is not under load while warming up.

Accessories do not matter. Your car has several circuits - Always on (lights, locks), Accessory (HVAC, radio), Run (ECU), Start (starter). Accessories are not powered when the start circuit is active (unless some bad wiring was done). Even my 70 truck is wired this way.

The off/on is done when the engine was already warm, so there is minimal wear done.

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    "not under load while warming up" this is a misconception. An engine should be operated normally in order to warm up. Better oil flow. – justinm410 Oct 20 '16 at 16:53
  • ...unless your normal use is hauling ass. Really, the best thing is to drive gently until the engine is warm. If that's what you often do, the comment by justinm410 is valid. So, I believe this answer is not valid. – juhist Feb 2 '17 at 15:24
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Unless you have a crappy starter or it was installed wrong, you can perform a secure takeover without turning the vehicle off even on Push to Start/keyless ignition vehicles.

I install remote starters for a living. I've done a PTS where all you had to do was get in and press the start stop twice like normal (before pressing the brake) and as long as your fob is there, you can then brake to disengage the RS and drive off with your engine staying running.

Though I'm sure there's vehicles that this may be impossible on, I think it's more about how the remote starter is designed/installed, for example, if the door pin wire isn't connected (or more likely, in the case of this type of vehicle, if there isn't a message for it on can bus and no door pin wire) the vehicle will stay running even when the door opens (unless it OEM shuts down when you open door but I doubt (m)any do, imagine getting out for a delivery or something quick and it shuts down) .

So, in a properly configured system your point is moot, but to answer your question specifically, from an engineering standpoint shutting off an engine and restarting it shortly after technically causes less wear than a plain cold start. From an electrical standpoint, there should be no issue as well, some elecronics compoents are even tested by switching them on and off rapidly millions of times (relays, for example which are probably the most wear-able electronic part, from actual use anyway and not just environment +time)...

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