Blog > The Weather Is Cold, My Car Won’t Start. What Should I Do?

The Weather Is Cold, My Car Won’t Start. What Should I Do?

Overcome The Challenges Of Cold Weather

When the weather turns icy, and your engine refuses to start, it can be incredibly frustrating and inconvenient. But fear not—there are steps you can take to troubleshoot the issue and get your vehicle up and running again. 

Extreme cold temperatures can wreak havoc on your engine, causing issues with auto parts such as a dead battery, frozen fuel lines, or thickened engine oil. These factors can significantly impact your engine’s ability to start smoothly. By understanding the potential causes and implementing the correct solutions, you can minimize the chances of being stranded in the cold.

Whether it’s checking your battery’s charge level, using the right engine oil, or taking preventive measures to keep your fuel lines from freezing, there are several steps you can take to overcome the challenges of cold weather. 

Ford Extreme Cold Wheather Climate
Ford Extreme Cold Wheather Climate

Common Reasons Why Engines Won’t Start In Cold Weather

Battery And Connections

One of the most common reasons engines fail to start in cold weather is a dead or weak battery. Cold temperatures can reduce the battery’s cranking power, making it difficult for the engine to turn over. You can use auto parts like a multimeter or a battery tester to check your battery’s charge level. You may need to jump-start your vehicle or replace the battery if the charge is low.

In addition to the battery itself, inspecting the battery connections is essential. Corrosion or loose connections can prevent the battery from delivering power to the engine. Ensure the terminals are clean and tight, and consider using a battery terminal protector to prevent future corrosion.

Spark Plugs And Ignition System

Faulty spark plugs or a malfunctioning ignition system can also prevent your engine from starting in cold weather. Spark plugs that are worn out or covered in carbon deposits may not produce a strong enough spark to ignite the fuel-air mixture. Similarly, a faulty ignition coil or distributor can disrupt the electrical flow, leading to a no-start condition.

Inspect your spark plugs and other auto parts for signs of wear or fouling and replace them if necessary. Additionally, check the ignition system components for any visible damage or loose connections. If you’re unsure about the condition of your spark plugs or ignition system, having them tested and serviced with an auto repair by a qualified mechanic is a good idea.

Fuel System

Problems within the fuel system can also contribute to starting issues with cold weather. When temperatures drop, the fuel can become thicker and more viscous, making it harder to ignite. Additionally, water or condensation in the fuel lines can freeze, blocking fuel flow to the engine.

It’s important to use the correct fuel for your vehicle to ensure proper fuel delivery, especially in cold weather. Many gasoline stations offer winter-grade fuel specifically formulated to withstand lower temperatures. Additionally, consider using a fuel system cleaner to remove any deposits or impurities hindering fuel flow.

Dealing With Frozen Fuel Lines

Frozen fuel lines are a common problem in extremely cold weather. When the fuel lines freeze, fuel cannot reach the engine, preventing it from starting. To thaw frozen fuel lines, you can try using a heated garage or parking your vehicle in a warmer location. Applying heat to the fuel lines, such as using a hairdryer or heat gun, can also help melt the ice.

However, it’s essential to exercise caution when dealing with frozen fuel lines. Do not use an open flame or any ignition source near the fuel lines, as this can lead to a dangerous situation. If you cannot thaw the fuel lines on your own, it’s best to contact a professional mechanic for an auto repair service.

Using Engine Block Heaters And Other Cold Weather Accessories

Engine block heaters are helpful in starting your engine in extremely cold weather. These heaters warm up the engine block, making it easier for the engine to turn over. By plugging in the engine block heater for a few hours before starting your vehicle, you can ensure that the engine is at a suitable temperature for starting.

In addition to engine block heaters, other cold-weather accessories can improve your chances of starting your engine in frigid conditions. For example, using a battery blanket or insulation wrap can help keep your battery warm and maintain its charge. Similarly, using a fuel line heater or an anti-gel additive can prevent fuel from freezing in the lines.

Tips For Starting A Cold Engine

Starting a cold engine requires some additional steps to ensure a successful start. Here are some tips to help you get your engine running in cold weather:

  1. To reduce the strain on the battery, turn off all unnecessary accessories, such as the radio, heater, and lights.
  2. To reduce the load on the engine, depress the clutch pedal (for manual transmissions) or put the gear in neutral (for automatic transmissions).
  3. Turn the key to the “on” position and wait a few seconds before cranking the engine, allowing the fuel pump to prime the system and distribute fuel to the engine.
  4. Crank the engine while holding the accelerator pedal slightly down, which can help provide extra fuel to the engine and aid in starting.
  5. Once the engine starts, allow it to warm up for a few minutes before driving off, allowing the oil to circulate and reach optimal operating temperature.

Precautions To Take In Extreme Cold Weather

In addition to troubleshooting and starting your engine, there are some precautions you should take in extreme cold weather to prevent future starting issues. These include:

  1. Park your vehicle in a garage or use a car cover to protect it from the elements.
  2. Use a fuel stabilizer to prevent fuel degradation and water accumulation in the fuel tank.
  3. Keep your battery charged by driving your vehicle regularly or using a battery maintainer.
  4. Check and maintain the proper level of engine oil, ensuring it is suitable for cold weather conditions.
  5. Consider using winter tires for improved traction and handling on icy roads.

When To Seek Professional Help

While basic troubleshooting and maintenance can resolve many cold-weather starting issues, there may be situations where professional help from a car dealership is required. If you’ve followed the steps outlined in this article and your engine still won’t start, it’s best to contact a qualified mechanic and schedule an auto repair.

A professional mechanic at a car dealership will have the knowledge, experience, and tools to diagnose and repair complex engine issues. They can also perform specialized tests to identify any underlying problems causing the starting issue.

Maintaining Your Engine In Cold Weather

Starting your engine in cold weather can be challenging, but by understanding why engines won’t start and implementing the appropriate solutions, you can overcome this issue. Whether it’s checking your battery, inspecting the spark plugs, or taking preventive measures to protect your fuel system, there are steps you can take to ensure a smooth start in frigid conditions.

Remember to exercise caution and follow proper safety procedures when dealing with frozen fuel lines or using engine block heaters. Additionally, taking precautions in extremely cold weather, such as parking in a garage and using winter-grade fuel, can help prevent future starting issues. If you cannot resolve the starting problem on your own, don’t hesitate to seek professional help in from a car dealership. A qualified mechanic can diagnose and auto repair any underlying issues preventing your engine from starting.

Following these tips and maintaining your engine in cold weather can minimize the chances of being stranded in the cold and keep your vehicle running smoothly throughout the winter season. Stay prepared, stay safe, and enjoy the winter weather without worrying about a non-starting engine.