, Salem, MA

January 11, 2014

Auto Scanner: Can you still push-start a car with dead battery?

Auto Scanner
Larry Rubenstein

---- — Q: In the good old days when you had a dead battery, all you needed was a few friends to push or a slight incline. Once you got some speed, you popped the clutch and the engine caught. I assume this still works with a manual transmission. Then came the automatic transmissions, and you “had to get up to 35 mph” before the engine would catch. This led to one of the great hoaxes with the man stranded on the Merritt Parkway waiting for the volunteer to start pushing when he noticed the car in his rear-view mirror approaching at 35 mph. Now I’ve heard that they took the “reverse turbine” out of the automatics. So the question: can you start the new cars by pushing them and shifting into gear — either standard automatics or the CVTs?

A: You can still push-start a standard transmission car. However, you are correct concerning the automatic being push-started. I have to wonder if the standard transmission is indeed going away, as well. The number of cars we service with standard transmissions has dwindled tremendously. Imagine a driving world where people see the standard transmission the same way we see the tuner on the television — antiquated and not needed. Everything has become electronic, and the need for driver input and skills is diminishing with every new model year. We already have “park itself” and automatic “avoid the wreck”; “drive itself” is in the experimental stage. I would be interested in reader input on the way you feel about the previously stated updates to the automobile.

Q: I have a 2010 RAV4 and I was out yesterday in the snow. I turned onto my street and fishtailed and a loud beep went off, which lasted about five seconds. I know there was a recall on this model just recently, and I did bring it in to have it fixed. Do you have any idea what might have caused this beeping noise, or is it just part of the alert system?

A: The loud beep was your traction-control system alerting you that it was encountering a skid and taking corrective actions. You have traction control, as well as anti-lock-brake control, and even yaw control on your RAV4. These are all good systems and work to your benefit. The downside of these features is the cost of repairs when they fail.

Car Care Tip: With winter upon us, we all need to be aware of winter safety. Safety rule No. 1 has to be running your car without a clear path of tailpipe exhaust. There were deaths last winter due to carbon monoxide poisoning because of the tailpipe being too close to the snow. Please be aware and leave a window partially open when warming up or defrosting your car.


Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears every Saturday. Write to Larry at The Salem News, c/o Auto Scanner, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915, or send an email to