Winter can be a challenging season for drivers, especially when trying to start their cars in sub-zero temperatures. Low temperatures reduce the efficiency of the battery and increase the viscosity of engine oil, making it harder to turn over the engine and start the car. Most seasoned drivers know that cold weather means taking time to warm up their cars before hitting the road.
If you live in an extremely cold area, starting your car might seem like a daunting task, but fret not! With some tips and tricks, you can get your engine running and prepare yourself for a smooth ride.
In this article, we have compiled a list of things to do when starting your car in the cold. From preheating the car, to checking the battery and using the right type of oil, we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn more about how to start your car in the cold and ensure you’re always ready for a safe drive, even in the harshest of winters.
Preheat Your Engine
Winter weather can be tough on your car, and starting it on a cold morning can sometimes prove to be challenging. That’s why learning how to preheat the engine is necessary for everyone living in a place with frigid temperatures during winters.
Why Preheating Your Engine Is Important
The purpose of preheating your engine is to keep critical components warm so that they work correctly when you start your car. This process helps protect the engine from mechanical failures as well as save fuel consumption. When you preheat your engine, this gradually raises the temperature level of different key parts such as oil, coolant, battery, etc., preventing them from becoming too stiffened up or too strained-up due to the extremely low winter chills.
Not preheating your engine could cause delays and additional costs due to repairs and maintenance, which can often be inconvenient and costly.
How to Preheat Your Engine
Here are some steps you may take to preheat your engine:
- Use a block heater: A block heater plugs into an electric outlet and warms the engine by heating the coolant. It’s best to plug this approximately two hours before driving if you want optimum results.
- Park indoors: Park your car inside garage if you have one. The enclosed environment will help preserve and retain heat much better than being parked outside in below-zero temperatures.
- Cover up: Use either a spare piece of cardboard or purchase a windshield shield to cover your windshield and windows. This covering protects against extreme ice buildup, keeping both glass surfaces free of any disorienting frost or extensive snow coverage.
- Turn on the defroster: Set your vehicle’s climate control to full blast and electric heating elements of defrost settings. This will help remove frost from your windows, as well as assist in elevating the temperature inside the car.
- Clean off snow and ice: Make sure you clear all snow and ice from every part of your car, including side mirrors, rearview mirror, etc., before starting it up.
Preheating Your Engine in Extreme Cold
When temperatures fall below -30℃ (-22°F), preheating alone may not suffice. In such frigid conditions, follow these extra steps for better results:
- Use a battery blanket: When extreme cold strikes, batteries lose their charging abilities, so installing a battery blanket will help keep them warm. It has proven helpful in maintaining optimum functioning in severe weather by providing an insulated shield around the battery.
- Add fuel stabilizer: At times, gasoline that remains within the lines can freeze or gel together during long periods of non-use. Putting an anti-gelling additive like fuel stabilizer into your tank could prevent this issue from coming up since it lubricates the engine and also prevents rust accumulation.
- Heat up the oil pan: Oil pans located beneath the crankcase could become chilly due to the winter, leading to thickened oil, which is unsuitable for optimal function. Slug at some waste oil beneath the oil pan approximately half an hour before beginning to move, ensuring that it doesn’t spill over.
Preheating vs. Idling: Which is More Efficient?
Many drivers believe that letting their engines idle for a few minutes before driving is the same as preheating. However, this is not the case.
Preheating your engine can save fuel, reduce wear and tear on vital parts of the car, and result in fewer emissions compared to idling the vehicle. When you let your engine idle instead of preheating it, the engine warms up slower, leading to lower gas mileage and increased pollution. Besides, when the engine idles, it runs cooler than when it heats up during driving since it doesn’t generate as much power.
“Cold temperatures adversely affect most automotive systems, including fuel efficiency,” says Engineer Steve Mazor, Chief Auto Engineer from AAA (American Automobile Association). “In winter months, many motorists idle their engine too long in efforts to warm the engine or passenger compartment.”
Engineers suggest that if it’s over freezing outside, preheating the engine for 15-30 minutes would be adequate. Conversely, suppose the temperature is sub-zero (-18℃ or below). In that case, it may take longer for the engine to preheat while also necessitating essential steps like using a battery blanket coupled with an engine heater block.
The Bottom Line
Knowing how to preheat your engine properly not only helps get rid of chilly mornings but could also save you time and money down the road. Follow these simple instructions mentioned above whenever you’re preheating your engine during winters.:
- Plug-in your block heater about two hours before departure (if possible)
- Park indoors or utilize windshield shields along with defrost settings on maximum capacity
- Clean off all snow and ice before starting the engine in the morning
By doing this, you’ll be keeping your vehicle’s critical systems functional, preventing future repairs, and reducing fuel consumption.
Use Synthetic Oil
When starting your car in the cold, using synthetic oil can be a game changer. It helps to keep your engine lubricated and allows for smooth operation even in extreme temperatures. Here are some of the benefits of using synthetic oil:
The Benefits of Synthetic Oil
- Better Performance: Synthetic oil is designed to reduce friction between moving parts within your engine, which results in better overall performance.
- Increase Efficiency: Synthetic oil also has less viscosity than conventional oil, making it easier for your engine to start, especially in colder weather. This flowability leads to increased fuel efficiency as well.
- Longer Lasting: Since synthetic oil is made from high-quality materials, it is more durable and will outlast conventional oils by a long shot.
- Lowers Friction: High-performance engines have more friction due to their complex design. Synthetics usually have lower levels of friction compared to regular motor oil that allows them to perform smoothly without damaging an engine over time.
These benefits make synthetic oil worth considering if you’re looking for something that can help protect the longevity of your engine while driving in harsh winter conditions. Additionally, it can provide peace of mind knowing that you won’t encounter difficulties when trying to start your vehicle in cold weather.
Synthetic Oil vs. Conventional Oil: What’s the Difference?
Synthetic oil differs from traditional petroleum-based oils in numerous ways. Synthetic oils are engineered to have specific qualities that are not found in conventional oils, such as uniformity in molecules structure leading to enhanced durability, fluid consistency, resistance to evaporation at higher temperatures, etc. These differences make questionable whether mixing the two types of oils would result in optimal performance, so it’s best to stick to one type. While conventional oils are less expensive and offer a cheaper alternative, they’re typically not as high-quality or long-lasting as synthetic oils.
Synthetic oil could be the solution you need to start your car more effectively during winter weather conditions. However, before switching from conventional, consult with the manufacturer of your particular make and model to ensure that the engine is compatible with synthetic oil.
“The use of synthetic lubricants can decrease overall scrubbing of internal parts, which leads to reduced wastage loss and improved fuel efficiency.” – The Association for Lubricants Manufacturers and Marketers
Therefore, based on this statement by ALMM members, synthetics are technologically crafted oils that increase engine protection due to their advanced chemical & molecular characteristics compared to traditional-based petroleum oils leading to better increased fuel efficiency and lower emissions.
Check Your Battery
Why Checking Your Battery Is Important
If you live in an area with cold temperatures, your car battery may struggle to start the engine on chilly mornings. If the battery is not checked regularly, it could die unexpectedly and leave you stranded without a running vehicle. Regular checking of the battery can help identify any potential issues before they become major problems.
In addition, regular maintenance of the battery will extend its lifespan. An average car battery lasts around four years, so performing routine checks helps prolong its life and prevent unnecessary replacement costs.
How to Check Your Battery
The easiest way to check your battery is to use a voltmeter or visit a local mechanic for professional assistance. You can also visually inspect the battery for any signs of corrosion or deterioration, which are common issues that can affect performance.
To begin the visual inspection, first ensure that the vehicle is turned off and the keys have been removed from the ignition. Locate the battery under the hood and look for any visible signs of damage or corrosion on the surface or surrounding cables.
If there is debris or grime present, clean the terminals using a wire brush and a mixture of water and baking soda. The acid within the baking soda solution reacts with the corroded material to create a neutral substance that can be rinsed away without damaging the battery.
You can also test the battery’s charge level with a multimeter tool. Set the tool to “DC Volts” and connect the red cable to the positive terminal and the black cable to the negative terminal. A reading between 12.4 volts and 12.6 volts means the battery is working correctly. Any readings below this range indicate low voltage and may need recharging or replacing.
- Begin by opening the hood and locating the battery
- Inspect for any signs of corrosion or damage
- Clean the terminals using a wire brush and baking soda solution if necessary
- Test the battery’s charge level with a multimeter
“Batteries can fail without warning, so it’s important to have them tested regularly.” -John Nielsen, AAA
Regular checks of your car’s battery are crucial for prolonged performance and reliability during colder months. By identifying any potential issues early, you can avoid costly repairs in the future.
Turn Off All Electrical Components
If you live in an area that gets extremely cold during winter, starting your car might become a difficult task. One of the essential steps to ensure an easy start is turning off all electrical components beforehand.
Why Turning Off Electrical Components is Important
Turning off electrical components helps reduce the load on the battery and starter motor by minimizing the energy consumed by the radio, lights, and other devices in the car. By shutting down these power-consuming systems, you’ll help increase the amount of current supplied to the engine starter and improve the chances of smooth ignition.
A common mistake many car owners make while trying to start their vehicle during freezing temperatures is not shutting down all electrical consumers. This leads to a drop in voltage due to increased battery load without providing enough amperage to crank up the engine.
“The colder it gets outside, the less cranking amps the battery has,” says David Bennett, AAA club spokesman for Southern New England. “So there’s a greater demand when starting the vehicle.”
Which Electrical Components Should You Turn Off?
All non-essential electrical equipment should be switched off before attempting to start the car in extreme cold weather. These include the portable music player connected to your infotainment system, headlamps, ceiling lamps, interior lighting fixtures, and heating/cooling systems among others.
It would be best if you also unplugged any electronic device connected to the USB ports or cigarette lighter adapter. Also, turn off the fan blower entirely so no load comes on to the battery. Save your windshield wipers until after you already have the engine running smoothly.
Turning off every non-critical electrical component before igniting your car’s engine can go a long way in getting it started during cold temperatures. By reducing the battery load and powering down power-consuming systems, you’ll give your vehicle a better chance of functioning seamlessly.
Use Fuel Additives
The Benefits of Fuel Additives
Cold weather can take a toll on your car’s engine and fuel system, which is why it’s important to use fuel additives during the winter months. These additives can help improve your vehicle’s performance, reduce emissions, and prevent costly repairs.
One major benefit of fuel additives is that they can improve fuel efficiency by cleaning the engine and removing any deposits that may be hindering performance. This helps ensure that your car starts smoothly, even in cold temperatures, and helps you get more miles out of each tank of gas.
Another benefit of fuel additives is that they can help reduce harmful emissions from your vehicle. When combustion is incomplete, it can lead to the release of pollutants such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. By improving combustion through the use of fuel additives, you can significantly limit the amount of these emissions released into the environment.
Finally, using fuel additives can help prevent expensive repairs down the line. Deposits and contaminants can build up over time in your car’s fuel system, leading to clogged fuel injectors and other problems. By regularly adding fuel additives to your gas tank, you can keep this buildup under control and extend the life of various parts of your engine.
Types of Fuel Additives and Their Uses
There are many different types of fuel additives available, each with its own specific benefits and uses. Here are a few common examples:
- Fuel stabilizers: These additives are designed to prevent gasoline from breaking down over time and becoming less effective. They’re particularly useful if you don’t drive your car very often or store it for long periods of time.
- Cetane boosters: Cetane is a rating used to measure the quality of diesel fuel. By adding cetane boosters to your diesel, you can improve combustion and performance.
- Fuel system cleaners: As their name suggests, these additives are designed to clean out your car’s fuel system and remove deposits that can cause problems down the line.
- Fuel octane boosters: Octane is another measurement used to rate fuel, typically in relation to how well it resists pinging or knocking. Adding an octane booster can help improve combustion and prevent engine damage.
How to Use Fuel Additives
Adding fuel additives to your gas tank is relatively easy, though it’s important to follow the instructions on the product label carefully to ensure that you’re using the additive correctly. Here are some general steps you can follow:
- Clean the fuel filler neck: Before adding any fuel additives, it’s a good idea to wipe down the area around your car’s fuel filler neck to remove any debris or dirt. This will help ensure that no contaminants end up in your gas tank.
- Pour in the recommended amount: Check the product label for the appropriate amount of fuel additive to use based on the size of your gas tank. Pour this amount carefully into your tank.
- Fill up with gasoline: After adding the fuel additive, fill up your vehicle’s gas tank as you normally would.
- Drive your car: The additive will get mixed in with the gasoline as you drive, so there’s nothing else you need to do in order to activate it.
“Using fuel additives can be a great way to enhance your car’s performance and protect its engine during cold weather. Just be sure to choose the right type of additive for your vehicle and follow usage instructions carefully.” – AAA
Try Jumpstarting Your Car
Winter can be brutal on your car, especially if you live in an area with extreme cold temperatures. If your car won’t start when it’s cold outside, there are a few things you can do to try and get it up and running again.
When Jumpstarting Your Car is Necessary
If you turn the key in your ignition and your car won’t start, but you hear a clicking sound or the engine turns over very slowly, your battery may be dead. This is a common issue during the winter months, as the cold temperatures make it difficult for the battery to produce enough power to start the car. If this happens, jumpstarting your car is often the easiest solution.
Jumpstarting your car also becomes necessary if the headlights or dome light are not working properly, indicating that the battery does not have sufficient charge. In addition, a low battery may cause your car’s electrical system to malfunction, causing the car to operate sluggishly, making erratic noises or even failing to run altogether.
How to Jumpstart Your Car Safely
Jumpstarting your car requires another vehicle with a good battery to give some extra juice to yours. Here’s what to do:
- Park the vehicles close to each other, but not touching.
- Turn off both cars’ engines, set their parking brakes, and pop open their hoods.
- Attach one red (positive) jumper cable clamp to the positive terminal of the dead battery.
- Once the first end of the jumper cables has been connected, connect the second red (positive) clamp to the positive terminal of the good battery.
- Next, attach one black (negative) jumper cable clamp to the negative terminal of the good battery.
- Finally, connect the second black (negative) clamp at an unpainted metal surface on your car’s frame. Do not attach it to the negative terminal as this can cause a spark or explosion which will be dangerous for both vehicles and everyone in their proximity.
- Start the engine of the vehicle with the good battery first. Wait a few minutes before starting the other vehicle.
- If everything is connected properly, try to start the car with the dead battery. Once it starts running, allow it to run for a few minutes to replenish its alternator.
Please note that jumpstarting a car involves electricity, which means there are risks involved. Be sure to check your owner’s manual for specific instructions, always wear safety glasses, gloves, and never smoke near a battery as hydrogen gas emitted from the battery can ignite causing severe injury or death. It is recommended to call roadside assistance if you are unsure how to proceed safely.
What to Do When Jumpstarting Your Car Doesn’t Work
- If jumpstarting your car doesn’t work, see if you have fueling issues or fuse problems that need your attention.
- You can also get your battery tested professionally instead of guessing what went wrong. Several automotive service plant also test batteries free of charge.
“Winter brings cold temperatures and challenges to our everyday lives including operating our cars which becomes difficult during freezing weather. NHTSA advises motorists to plan ahead” -National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
In case all the above actions don’t start your car or detect unusual sound or abnormal behavior when trying jumpstart your car, take it to a professional mechanic. If the engine is not cranking (like you’re not turning the key), it could be something more serious, such as chain or timing problems; at which point a professional mechanic or auto repair center may be required.
By following these steps and taking cautionary measures, jumpstarting your car in cold weather can be a safe and easy process. However, always be prepared for any eventuality by keeping extra blankets, water, food, and a charged phone with you whenever travelling during winters.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the steps to follow to start a car in the cold?
To start a car in the cold, first turn off all accessories like the radio, heater, and lights. Press the clutch pedal and turn the ignition key. If the engine doesn’t start, release the key and wait a few seconds. Try again, but this time press the accelerator pedal lightly. Once the engine starts, let it warm up for a few minutes before driving. Be sure to drive gently until the engine has reached its normal operating temperature.
What are the common reasons why a car won’t start in the cold?
A car may not start in the cold due to several reasons, including a weak battery, thickened oil, or a faulty starter motor. Other reasons may include clogged fuel filters, damaged spark plugs, or a malfunctioning alternator. It’s important to have your vehicle inspected regularly and ensure that the battery and other components are in good working condition before the cold weather arrives.
How does cold weather affect the battery life of a car?
Cold weather can drastically affect the battery life of a car. The chemical reactions that take place in the battery slow down in cold temperatures, making it harder for the battery to produce the necessary power to start the engine. In extreme cold, the battery may even freeze, causing irreversible damage. To prolong the life of your battery in cold weather, ensure that it’s fully charged, keep the terminals clean, and park in a warm garage or use a battery blanket.
What are some safety precautions to take when starting a car in the cold?
To start a car safely in the cold, first ensure that the area around the car is clear of snow and ice. Wear warm clothing and gloves, and keep a cellphone with you in case of an emergency. Never warm up your car in an enclosed area, and avoid leaving it unattended while idling. Always use the parking brake and ensure that the car is in park or neutral before starting it.
How can I prevent my car from getting stuck in the snow during cold weather?
To prevent your car from getting stuck in the snow during cold weather, use snow tires or chains and ensure that your brakes and steering are in good working condition. Avoid sudden movements and accelerate and brake gently to prevent skidding. Keep a shovel, sand, or kitty litter in your car in case you get stuck and need to create traction. Consider using snow plows or snow blowers to clear your driveway or parking lot.