How To Start a Car in Cold Weather

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Summer is over and slowly but surely, the temperatures are getting close to freezing. Though your car is equipped to bear the brunt of frosty weather, it will require a little bit more care especially during the cold mornings.

It may happen more than once that your car would not start in the morning, just when you are in a rush to get to work. Not only is it a huge hassle especially when you need to be at work on time, but it also means you are not taking the right steps to start your car carefully during winter. Pushing your car too much might cause worse problems in the future, but following the right procedure will prevent this.

Why Your Car Might Not Start During Cold Mornings

In order to prevent issues with starting your car in cold weather, it is first important to understand why this happens. The low temperatures affect your vehicle in several ways, specifically in 4 ways:

  • Batteries

Your car battery will produce less electrical current when the temperatures are low, simply because the chemical reaction is slower on cold days compared to a warm summer ones. Simply put, it doesn’t produce as much power as batteries that are in a warm environment, and thus, the cold weather can cause issues with starting. You may also like: Winterizing a car battery.

  • Engine Oil

Another effect of the cool weather is that engine oil becomes thicker and will not be able to flow around the engine as smoothly. This means pumping it through the engine block is more difficult and it will add even more strain to the car’s battery. If the battery is also weak, then your car will not start.

  • Fuel Blockage

In rare cases, there can be moisture in the fuel lines that freeze during winter. This will lead to a fuel blockage, which is why the engine does not start. This is more common in thinner fuel lines that can be easily clogged by ice. The fuel of diesel cars also turns a bit like gel in low temperatures, meaning power gets delivered more slowly to the engine when starting up.

  • Carburetor

Older cars have carburetors, which are very sensitive when it comes to cold weather because of their small nozzles. They can easily get clogged and prevent moisture from evaporating, leading to ice building up. Modern cars do not have a carburetor anymore but those vehicles that are older than 20 years might notice this issue.

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Steps To Protect Your Car

If you do not have a garage to park your car in, then you might notice more start-up issues due to the low temperatures. If this is the case, there are other ways to protect your car or to reduce the effects of the cold weather so that you will not have problems every morning.

  • Keep The Car Warm

There are other ways to keep your car warmer even if it is parked out in the open. Of course, doing so will be the easiest solution because the engine oil and the car’s battery are simply not fans of the cold. A straightforward solution is to park near or under something big like a building or a tree or use a car cover. The physics of cooling and heating means these spots will still be a few degrees warmer in the morning compared to a parking slot completely out in the open.

Cars sold in countries with four seasons have anti freeze added to the radiator coolant. However, in really cold areas, you might benefit from using a battery heater or engine block heater. They can keep the oil and other fluids from freezing up.

  • Use The Right Oil

There are some kinds of oil that are perfect for use in cold temperatures. To find out, you should consult the car’s manual. Newer synthetic oils remain fluid in the cold, but it is important to find the right one. A multi-weight oil has 2 numbers like 10W-40. The first number with the W refers to winter and the lower the number, the more easily it flows during low temperatures. Lower numbers also exist, but it is necessary to check your manual to ensure compatibility.

  • Prevent Fuel Issues

Some auto parts stores or gasoline stations sell dry gas to be used for gasoline cars or fuel conditioner for diesel vehicles. This will prevent fuel-line freezing, or gelling in the case of diesel cars. Using them every once in a while might help but these additives might also be present in the fuel, so check with the gas station first before adding more of it to the fuel tank.

  • Keep The Tank Full

Few people know that a cold car requires 40% more fuel during startup in a cold day compared to warmer days. This means, trying to start a car with low fuel levels, you might notice some issues in a cold day. So make sure you fill up the tank before going home for the night.

  • Replace The Battery
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In certain situations, startup problems simply signal the fact that the car battery needs to be removed and is up for replacement. After all, if it is acting up lately and winter is coming, you can easily expect it to struggle or even completely fail when really cold days come. While it might represent a heftier investment in your part, you can prevent any unexpected breakdowns on your way to work and moreover, avoid any further damage to the car.

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Starting Your Engine During Winter

While taking the necessary steps to prevent starting up issues during winter helps, the best step is to follow the right procedure in starting your engine during the cold winter days.

  • Turn Everything Off

Electrical accessories of the car like heaters, headlights, and radios all use the battery. Switching them all off will help the battery when starting up your car. When it starts, let the engine run a little while before switching them on, otherwise you run the risk of the battery dying again.

  • Dip The Clutch While Turning The Ignition On

Another easy trick for manual transmission cars is to dip the clutch a little while you turn on the ignition. In doing so, you reduce the work that the car’s battery has to do, giving the engine a chance to start normally, even if the car is cold.

  • Check The Battery Leads

Look for the battery under your car bonnet and check out the cables. If there are signs of corrosion, like a salty or crusty substance, then you should clean it in order for the battery to work properly. You need to make sure you have protective goggles and gloves and disconnect the battery cables first (starting with negative). Then you can clean it with a toothbrush and a strong mix of water and baking soda. When connecting the cables back, start with the negative one to prevent electric shock.

Some cables are corrosion free but it might be worth checking if they are connected tightly, because loose cables may prevent the current from properly flowing. Tighten up any loose clamps too before trying to ignite the car again.

  • Fill Up The Engine Oil

If you notice the engine sound like it is having trouble turning over when turning on the ignition, it might simply mean your vehicle is low on engine oil. If so, it puts a lot more stress on the battery to start the engine, and if the battery is too cold or it is already not in its top condition, then you will never get it started. Pull out the dipstick and check the oil level. When the level is low, top it up before trying to start the engine again.

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Does your engine sound like it’s really struggling to turn over when you try the ignition? It might be because you’re low on engine oil. If your oil is low, it puts a lot more strain on the battery to start the engine, and if the battery is cold or not in top condition to begin with then you’ll never get off the mark. Use a dipstick to check oil levels and, if it’s looking low, top it up before you try to start the engine again.

  • Jumpstart

This is the last resort for car owners, but you might need to do it when you have exhausted all available options. However, if you are not familiar with the process, it is best not to attempt it because you might hurt yourself or cause damage to your car.

Make sure both cars are in neutral and that engines are switched off, then attach one of the red jump cables to the positive battery terminal on one car and the other end on the positive terminal of the second car. Afterward attach the black jump cable to the negative terminals of the second car and the other end of the cable to any unpainted metal surface in your own car. Start the engine of the second car and let it run a few minutes before you attempt to start your own.

If the last resort still does not start up your car, then it is time to call for a breakdown service and have your vehicle checked. While the cold weather does put a strain on your car more than during the warm summer days, these situations simply mean it is time to have repairs done. By taking the right precautions and following the right steps, there should be no reason for your automobile to just not start even if the temperatures are abnormally low.


  1. Why is it So Hard to Start a Car in the Winter? – howstuffworks
  2. How to Start a Car in Freezing Cold Winter Weather – wikiHow

Originally posted 2023-01-28 17:03:47.

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