The winter elements can have a negative effect on your car generally, but most importantly, also affect its ability to get started! Something you don’t want. Here are some cold start tips.
Cold start maintenance
1. Battery: Cold weather means that an already degraded battery will now have even more difficulty getting started. If you’ve had issues over the Summer and/or Fall time, don’t wait until the battery fails, replace it as soon as possible.
2. Gas: Keep your gas tank as full as possible. Not only is it better in case you get stuck somewhere, but cold weather starts actually require 40% more fuel to start-up in cold weather. Don’t wait until the ride into work to get gas. Make sure you always get gas on the way home.
3. Fuel Lines & Tank: Condensation in fuel lines and the gas tank can freeze and cause issues with starting and also idle. Proper Winter gas should be used, and gas line antifreeze should be used as needed. Always keep a spare bottle in the car for emergencies. Remember, the lower the fuel gauge, the greater the likelihood of condensation, water, and ice in the fuel system related problems.
4. Oil: Viscosity of engine oil will be affected by cold weather. The colder the weather, the thicker and slower the oil. Make sure that you have the right oil. Synthetic oils don’t become much thicker and slower in cold weather. Though more expensive, they are a better option.
5. Temperature: Try to keep the car warm if possible. This means parking inside if you have a garage. If you park outside, try to park in an area where the car is sheltered from the wind and cold, and can also retain its own heat. The use of a car cover can help. You may also want to invest in a battery heater and/or engine block heater, which will keep the fluids from freezing.
Car won’t start
1. Carburetor: Carburetors, found on older vehicles, have small nozzles which can lead to clogging along with ice buildup. They tend to be very sensitive to cold weather. If your car is older, it may not start because of an issue with the carburetor.
2. Water in Fuel Lines or Tank: Lower fuel levels can cause condensation in the gas lines and tank. Cold temperatures cause this condensation to freeze, which can create ice blockages in the line or water ‘puddles’ in the tank. This can prevent the car from starting in cold weather.
3. Incorrect or Insufficient Engine Oil: The wrong engine oil can prevent your car from starting due to low viscosity. The oil will thicken in the cold and can become too thick to run through the engine, preventing it from starting smoothly. Make sure that you have the correct oil for your engine. If you live somewhere that experiences severe cold weather, invest in synthetic oil. Synthetic oils retain their fluidity in the cold and also extend the life of your engine overall, so it’s a great investment all around.
4. Battery Issues: Car batteries start and hold current due to chemical reactions. This reaction is slower in colder weather, causing less electrical current to be produced, which means less power output.
Starting the car
1. Temperature Maintenance: Remove snow and ice from the car.
2. Shut Off Accessories & Externals: The battery may be operating with less power due to the cold. Turn off as many externals as possible. This will create less of a power drain on the battery. If the car does start, do not immediately turn all of those externals on. The drain to the battery may cause it to die again.
3. Depress Clutch: If your car is a manual transmission, you can reduce the power drain on the battery by lightly depressing the clutch.
4. Check Battery Cables: Ensure that there is no salt or other substance around the battery. If there is, put on protective eyewear and gloves, disconnect the battery. If you do not know how to disconnect the battery, check your owner’s manual or another guide to see how the battery is grounded. Once you have disconnected the battery, use a toothbrush to clean the cables with water and baking soda, heavy on the baking soda. Then reconnect the battery as indicated in your manual or guide.
5. Add Engine Oil: Low engine oil will place more stress on the battery. The battery will also be producing less power because of the cold temperatures, and possibly even less if it is not in prime condition. The additional stress of low engine oil will not help this. Check your oil and add as necessary.
6. Jumpstart: When all else fails, try to jumpstart your car. If you have an auto club membership, give them a call and they will do this for you. If you are in a rush and can’t wait, or you have another vehicle available, this is your best last resort option. If this doesn’t work, it’s time to take your car to a licensed professional to have it looked at.
It’s hard enough to leave the warmth and comfort of your home to head out into the cold weather and harsh winter conditions. Make sure that your time out there is as comfortable and quick as possible by Winterizing your car and maintaining it appropriately for those cold weather conditions.