Will roll-starting cause any damage to Michael's Honda Fit-- or his marriage, for that matter? Find out.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 2007

Dear Tom and Ray:

I sometimes roll-start our new Honda Fit. My wife didn't care when I did this to our old '91 Civic, but she claims it hurts the new car. My wife says her father taught her that roll-starting is only for when the battery is dead or the starter breaks. I'm sure my father-in-law, a food scientist and automatic-transmission driver for the past 30 years, would admit no expertise in the more esoteric areas of manual-car usage. So she ordered me to contact you two. She knows you have the wisdom to always side with the wife. What damage or benefits result from roll-starting a car down a lightly sloped driveway once or twice a week? -- Michael

RAY: Well, there are two types of damage to look at, Michael. There's the mechanical damage, and there's the marital damage.

TOM: As far as mechanical damage, there is none. Zilch. You're not harming anything. You're simply replacing the function of the starter motor with rolling wheels.

RAY: And as long as you pop the clutch at, say, 3 mph to 5 mph, and not 40 mph, no harm is being done to anything. I suppose that any additional clutch wear might even be offset by your lighter use of the starter motor and battery.

TOM: But in the interests of marital harmony and father-in-law relations, Michael (you don't want to be served nothing but turkey butt at Thanksgiving, do you?), I would suggest you say the following: "Hon, I checked with Tom and Ray. They said there's no real damage done from roll-starting the car, but there are no real benefits either. So if it bothers you, I won't do it."

RAY: Then only do it when she's not in the car, Michael.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One