How to Push Start a Car, With or Without an Engine-Start Button

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re having trouble starting your car, it is nice to know you have a few options. It is important to note that push-starting may only work if your vehicle has a manual transmission and if the battery is dead. Trying to push-start an automatic transmission vehicle could result in permanent transmission damage and is not worth the risk. If your vehicle is of the newer variety and comes with an engine-start button, things may run a little smoother. Today we will cover both scenarios.

Quick Answer

For vehicles containing an engine-start button:

  1. Make sure you have your key fob with you at all times.
  1. Press the brake and hold until step 3 is complete.
  1. Locate the engine Start/Stop button, press and hold until car starts.

If your vehicle has a manual transmission and does not contain an engine-start button:

  1. Check for any signs of a dead battery, make sure the push path ahead of you is clear and flat
  2. Insert key into ignition and turn to “On” position, place transmission into second gear, release the parking brake and press both the clutch and brake pedal down at the same time.
  3. Slowly release the brake as someone pushes the vehicle from behind, drop the clutch once you reach 5mph, and keep a tight grip on the steering wheel the whole time. 

If your vehicle does not start the first time, it is possible the vehicle was not rolling fast enough.  Repeat steps until successful.

Now that we have a brief overview of both methods of push-starting your car, we can discuss the details in each scenario. As you can see, each method depends entirely on what kind of transmission your car has.

How To Start A Push-Start Car

We will begin by addressing cars that contain a push-start button inside of them. If it does not start, here is what you must do:

Step 1: Locate Key Fob- The first thing you will want to do is make sure you have the key fob with you. You will not be able to start the car without it. This is because the key fob is programmed to send a certain signal to the car. If your key fob is too far away from your car, your car will not be able to read the signal.

Step 2: Brakes – Next, you will want to place your foot on the brake pedal and hold. Continue to hold until you complete step 3. This is also part of the programming of the car.

Step 3: Press and Hold Engine Start/Stop Button – Lastly, you will need to locate the Engine Start/Stop Button in your car. Once you locate it, press and hold with one finger. Continue to hold until you hear your engine start.

Additional Notes: Once you are ready to turn your car off, simply make sure you are in a parked position, press and hold the brakes, and press the Engine Start/Stop button until the car turns off. If you want to make additional safety measures, you may apply the parking brake as well.

Common Problems With Push-Button Cars

Technology has come a long way. Even so, there can be some hiccups when it comes to starting your automatic push start car. Below, you will find a few of the most common problems associated with this type of car:

Wrong Key Fob: It is entirely possible to have the wrong key fob. Namely, you can have the wrong valet key. This can happen if you go out and have your car valeted.  People can make mistakes, and if there was a mix-up between your key and someone else’s, this could cause your car not to start.

Dead Key Fob Battery: Your key fob contains a battery inside of it. This allows the key fob to send out signals to the car. If the battery inside your key fob has died, your car may not start. You will know if it’s the battery if you bring the nosebleed up to the button and physically push. If it starts, you will need to replace the battery.

Brakes Not Fully Engaged: Your foot needs to be firmly and steadily on the brake pedal in order for the car to start. Make sure you are pressing the brakes while to also press the Engine Start/Stop button.

Starter: If your car will not start despite a good key fob battery and pressing on the brakes, you may have a bad starter. Only a professional diagnostic will be able to tell you whether this is the case or not.

System Lockout:  Sometimes if there are too many attempts to start the car, the system will temporarily lock you out. The best thing to do here is to get out of your car, wait and try again in a few minutes. Make sure to take the key fob with you, as the constant sending and receiving of signal may inhibit you from being able to try again.

How To Manually Start A Push-Start Car If the Start/Stop Button Fails

What happens if your push start car does not start when you have tried the basic steps? There are a few situations where it is possible to override the push-start system. If, however, none of these tricks work, you will more than likely need to call your dealership and speak with customer service. From there, they may be able to guide you as to steps you need to take, or who you will need to contact to get your car going again.

Step 1: Make Sure You Have The Correct Key Fob – To verify whether you have the right key fob or not, take out the valet portion of the key. This is located at the bottom of your key fob. Make sure the valet key fits inside your door lock. Most of the time, if the key fits into the lock then it is the correct key fob. If not, it is not the correct key.

Step 2:  Press Nosebleed Portion of Key to Engine On/Off Button – Once you have established that you have the correct key fob, take the nosebleed portion of the key (the top right portion above the buttons) and physically press it up against the Engine Start/Stop button. This may start your car up right away. If not, the battery in the key fob might be bad. If that is the case, continue on to step 3.

Step 3: Contact Customer Service- If neither of the above tricks work, you may need to replace the key. Contact your dealership customer service to get the next steps.

How To Physically Push-Start A Car

We will now look into what happens with a manual transmission car, and how to push start it to hopefully get it back on the road again. Please note that these methods should not be attempted with an automatic transmission car, as this could result in transmission damage. This will also require at least two people, one to navigate the car from the inside, and others to help push from behind.

Step 1: Check Battery- Start by making sure your battery is not dead. To do so, insert your key into the ignition, turn as if you are trying to start it, and see how the car responds. If the dashboard lights come on and the car makes sounds, then the battery is still good. If, however, no dashboard lights come on and there are no sounds, then you can conclude that your battery is no good.

Step 2: Clear Path- Look around you and the path you plan to physically push your vehicle. Make sure there are no major obstacles such as trees, rocks, bodies or water, children, pets or other people. You will need to push hard and for approximately 300ft, or 91m,  so make sure to look way down the road to ensure it is clear.

Step 3: Determine Slope– If you are going to try physically push-starting your car, your best chance of getting your car to start is to make sure you push the car down a hill. Gravity will help get your car going, and will hopefully make pushing easier. Note that while a downhill slope is good, if the angle is too steep it could quickly become dangerous. Remember, you will not have power steering or power brakes, so that will make maneuvering the car difficult, especially if you are going at a fast speed.

Step 4: Insert Key and Turn to “On” position – Even though your car will not start, doing this will help unlock your steering wheel. This will help you navigate the car is it is being pushed. Power steering will only activate once the engine starts up again, so keep that in mind.

Step 5: Shift to Second Gear:  While there is no rule saying you cannot use first or third gear, shifting your car into second gear will be the easiest to work with when you are first getting started. First gear could make the car buck, as it generally has more torque. Third gear offers more speed. So because you do not know what will happen, it is best to start in second gear. Push your left food down on the clutch, while at the same time shifting to second gear.

Step 6: Release Parking Brake While Pushing Down on Brake and Clutch- Push down on the brake and clutch, then release the parking brake. If you are on a hill, make sure you hold down on the brake while you release the parking brake. This will prevent the car from rolling down the hill.

Step 7: Release brake as someone pushes from behind– Those who have chosen to help you will now get behind the car and begin to push. Note that there are some places that are not safe to push on, such as windows, tail lights or spoilers. Pushing on the bumper or trunk is fine. Release the brake as they push the car.

Step 8:  Drop Clutch Once Car Reaches 5mph- Once your car reaches speeds of 5mph, you will want to suddenly take your foot off the clutch. This is called “dropping it”, and will engage the crankshaft in the engine to the turning wheels. This will kick start the engine. Bucking and sputtering may occur. You can choose to either give the car some gas or not, but doing so may speed up the starting process.

Step 9: Keep Your Grip On the Steering Wheel Firm- At this point your car should spring to life. Making sure you have a good grip on the steering wheel will help you not lose control of the car.

Step 10: Allow Battery to Recharge- Once your car starts, release the clutch and let the alternator give the electric signal to keep the car running. Then, push down on the clutch while shifting to neutral. Keep the car running for 15 minutes to recharge the battery.

Troubleshooting Problems When Physically Push-Starting Car

Just as with anything else in life, sometimes things do not go as smoothly as we would hope. If your car will not start while following the generic guidelines, there may be a few things worth looking into:

Alternatives to Battery: There is a third possibility if your car will not start. If you turn they key and see dashboard lights, but then nothing happens, it is possible that the issues lies in the alternator, the ignition system, or the fuel system. These will need professional diagnostics to determine exactly where the problem lies.

Rolling Speed:  When pushing the car down a hill, it is important to push fast. If your car does not start, it could be because it was not rolling down fast enough.

Steering Wheel: Torque steer is when the engine’s torque turns the wheels to one side. This can happen a lot in front wheel drive cars. This can feel like a short jolt when the engine first starts. To prevent going off the road, keep a firm grip on the wheel.

Allowing Adequate Charge Time: If you do not allow your engine battery to charge for at least 15 minutes, you risk losing all the progress you made. You can drive around if you want to, but do not turn the car off until the battery has charged.

Not Enough Manpower: This is not something you can do alone. If you do not have at least one other person, you will not be able to get your car started again.

Wrap Up

Being able to push start your car is a skill that many have to learn. Whether you have an automatic transmission with a push start button, or a manual transmission that will require more physical maneuvering, having the know-how can get you and the ones you care about out of troublesome situations.

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