Remote start is a luxury feature on many new automobiles which allows remote locking or unlocking the ability of your car through an app or through a key fob, and also sets the desired climate inside the car cabin using the climate control system. However, some folks are skeptical of how much of a difference this remote start feature actually makes on their gas mileage and/or costs. In this guide we will have a detailed overview of the most commonly asked question: does remote start use more gas or fuel in your car?
You can read my guide if you want to know whether your vehicle has a remote start feature or not.
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Does Remote Start Use More Gas?
A remote start or auto start feature of a car does not actually use more gas and it will not increase fuel consumption. Remote start just intimates the vehicle’s ignition sequence with the key and burns the exact same amount of gas. The main purpose of a remote start is to run the engine at idle for 5 to 10 minutes in extreme hot or cold temperatures so that you can comfortably get in your car and get the desired environment in your car cabin. In most vehicles, the engine runs for up to 10 minutes after the remote start and turns off automatically so that the car does not continue to consume fuel. You can extend the run time of the engine on the remotes-start but the increasing idling time of the engine will have a negative impact on the fuel efficiency.
Myth About Increased Fuel Consumption On Remote Start Of Vehicle
Idling and climate control are the two most common reasons cited for increased fuel consumption when starting a vehicle remotely. When the engine is idling, the gas or fuel is being consumed and the car doesn’t move due to which MPG goes down. Idling fuel usage varies from 0.2 to 0.5 gal/h for passenger vehicles across a range of sizes. So, when the engine is running at idle during a remote start for up to 10 minutes, it can consume around 0.08 gallons of fuel or gas.
Similarly, remote start works with climate control. So, running heating or cooling systems idle for a long time also affect fuel consumption.
Basically, when the car is idling, it is not covering any distance but the engine is still running. This reduces the fuel mileage of a car (MPG) to some extent. But it is beneficial to the engine and its parts to let it warm up prior to moving it.
Idling the engine or remote starting it before you actually get into your vehicle allows all parts to get fully lubricated as the motor oil heats up and flows easily to all parts of the engine.
Actually, when there are extreme cold temperature conditions in your area, you will surely prefer using a remote start feature to warm up your vehicle and moderate the temperature inside its cabin instead of getting into the cold vehicle and waiting for the engine to warm up.
When you’re warming up your engine in cold temperatures, it helps lubricate fluids easily flow through the oil galleries, and different engine parts and makes them less likely to gum up the engine.
Ultimately, a cleaner engine with proper movement of its mechanical components will help achieve better fuel mileage in the long run.
Another reason why people think remote start increases fuel consumption is that the remote start feature uses a climate control function of the car to heat the vehicle cabin and defog the windows and windshields in cold temperatures or cool the vehicle cabin to a specific temperature and cool down the leather or vinyl seats so that they do not burn you in extremely hot weather conditions.
Usually, engine run time is set to 10 minutes by factory default if you use a remote-start feature. But, vehicle users tend to extend the engine run time on remote start to achieve a nice warm environment in their car cabin. You all know that the engine heating system consumes significant fuel or gas. So, just imagine if your car is idling plus the heating/defroster system or car A/C is running for more than 10 minutes in that condition, how much it can negatively impact the fuel economy.
Don’t Drive With Windows Down
So, you have run the engine using a remote start mode and you have now started driving the car.
If you continue driving the car at high speeds with windows down, it will cause more fuel consumption due to the air resistance experienced by the vehicle body. This air resistance is called aerodynamics drag in automotive engineering. When windows are down, the car body causes disruption in the airflow, which increases the drag. Due to this, the engine will consume more fuel to overcome this drag.
That is why engineers have demonstrated that running A/C in a modern car generally saves you gas vs. just opening a window while driving.
Does Remote Start Use Gas Or Battery?
Remote start is an electronic system that uses the battery of the vehicle. Remote start has a control module to receive and compute signals sent from the key fob.
A remote start module accepts the signal from the transmitter (key fob or signals sent by application), activates the systems to which it’s connected, and mimics the engine’s start sequence. It allows the engine to start, settings like heating or cooling to activate, and confirms that the doors are locked.
The remote start system even draws a small amount of current from the battery when the engine is OFF till it waits to receive a command from your key fob.
If your remote starter were to completely shut off and not use any battery power, then it would be impossible for the system to receive and execute a lock or remote start command sent from your remote.
The control module of a remote start does not operate if the vehicle battery voltage is below the minimum operating voltage which is usually 11.9V.
What Happens If You Use Your Remote Car Starter When The Gas Tank Is Empty?
Although the remote start is an electronic system, your car won’t start if your gas tank is empty as the remote start is the same as starting the vehicle with a key. Remote start control module could do its job by decoding the signals from the transmitter.
But, if there isn’t sufficient fuel in the tank, how the vehicle is supposed to start? You can consider it as a safety feature as the remote start control module does not want you to actually run out of gas when you get into the car and starts driving it. In most cases, when the gas tank is under 1/4 full, remote start usually stops working.
Do Remote Starters Have Negative Impacts?
Remote start system does not have a direct negative impact on the engine or environment. People actually tend to run their engine at idle for up to 20 minutes through the remote start to get a comfortable environment inside the car cabin. This isn’t a good thing as it extended idle will cost you too much. The prolonged idling of an engine is the main culprit that can have significant negative impacts.
People run their vehicles idle to warm up the engine. But, in reality, modern engines tend to warm up faster when driving. So, the faster the engine reaches its operating temperature, the better will be the fuel economy. If the engine is idling for a prolonged period of time, the engine will take more time to warm up. Asa result, it could end up causing deposits to build up in the engine, leading to mechanical degradation and even more fuel consumption.
Another harm of prolonged engine idling is the harmful emissions. In engines, catalytic converter convert harmful NOx and CO gases to nitrogen gas and carbon dioxide.
The catalytic converter needs high exhaust temperatures to convert harmful emissions. That’s why driving gently for the first few minutes causes the engine to warm up quickly so that the catalytic converter starts working efficiently.
Does Remote Start Damage Your Car?
Remote start does not damage your car if installed properly. Remote start has a complex electrical system. So, it isn’t bad for your car if installed by the manufacturer or a fully qualified aftermarket remote start company like Compustar. If the remote start system is not installed properly, it’s easy to ground out one of the wires of the system and drain your car battery prematurely.
Installing a remote starter in modern electrical systems can be very complex and installing a remote starter is a tedious task if you try to install it yourself. Only highly qualified technicians need to know how to interface with various systems of wiring of the remote starter.