Cold weather and cars aren’t necessarily sworn enemies, but they’re never going to be best friends either! When the temperatures start dipping in the winter, it can be hard not just on us humans but also our vehicles.
In some parts of the world, drivers wake up to a car that won’t start on a cold winter morning. Knowing what causes this problem and learning how to prepare your car for winter can help you avoid such an unwelcome surprise.
Cars that start when it's warm but don’t start when it's cold could have a number of different problems. It is often assumed by drivers that it’s a dead battery — and in many cases, that’s right. However, this may not be the only reason your car won't start when it's cold, so let's look at the most four common culprits that can keep your engine from turning over:
Possible Cause: Fuel
When your engine cranks normally but doesn’t turn over, the problem could be traced back to the fuel system. Now we all know that gasoline has to vaporize before it can burn, and freezing (or below) temperatures make that process difficult. When the level of gas in your tank drops, there’s more room for condensation to form in the tank. And this condensation gets into the fuel lines and the temperature plummets, the water can freeze the fuel lines and prevent gasoline from reaching the engine.
Solution: One of the best ways to sort this out is to get the car to a warmer environment, such as a garage. (You may need to have it towed.) To lessen the chances of this issue, keep your gas tank above the half-full mark so there’s less room for condensation to form.
Possible Cause: Engine Oil
The weather does control performance of several components, in this case, freezing and sub-freezing temperatures can cause your engine oil to thicken, which keeps it from moving through the vehicle as it should. In the cold, your motor needs lubricant to keep all the parts moving, if the oil is too thick, your starter motor can’t move it which results in the engine not starting.
Solution: Make sure you’re using an oil weight that’s suitable for winter and also check to see if your oil levels are low. If you haven’t changed your oil in a while, try that, too, since the oil gets thicker as it gets older.
Possible Cause: Spark Plugs
When it’s cold everything and everyone needs to work a bit harder, it’s the same with your car. Check-in on your spark plugs and wires. If they are aging, they may not have enough power to generate the spark you need to fire up the engine. (especially in the colder months)
Solution: Have your spark plugs checked out and replaced if necessary.
Possible Cause: Battery
The colder the temperature, the harder it is for your battery to perform. When the culprit is a dead battery, your starter might run slowly or it might not have enough juice to turn at all.
Solution: If you suspect there is a battery issue, immediately shut off anything that’s draining power (stereo, chargers, heater, etc.) and turn the key/press the ignition button. If this doesn’t help then you will need a jumpstart. Another temporary solution is that you can remove the battery and take it to a warmer area and see if that helps resolve the problem.
Properly preparing your car for colder temperatures and following these tips can prevent that unwelcome element of surprise of a dead car, saving you the cost of a tow as well as the frustration that comes with it. This also makes it a smoother and safer Life On Wheels while traveling through the cold season.