Car Won’t Start In Cold Weather? Here’s Why

As the winter season sets in, it’s not uncommon to face the frustrating situation of your car won’t start in cold weather. The drop in temperature can affect various components of your vehicle, making it difficult for the engine to crank up. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why your car won’t start in cold weather and provide you with practical solutions to get your vehicle up and running again.

1. Car Won’t Start In Cold Weather: Car Batteries

One of the most common reasons for your car won’t start in cold weather is a weakened battery. Low temperatures can significantly reduce the battery’s power, making it difficult for the starter motor to turn over. The chemical reaction inside the battery slows down in cold conditions, resulting in a decrease in power output. Additionally, cold weather thickens the engine oil, requiring more battery power to start the vehicle compared to warmer conditions.

To address this issue, it is essential to have a well-maintained battery. Regularly check the battery’s condition and consider replacing it every three years to ensure optimal performance. If you find yourself with a dead battery, you can try jump-starting it with the help of jumper cables and another vehicle. Remember to follow proper safety precautions while doing so.

Related: Car Won’t Start But Lights Come On: Troubleshooting Steps

2. Car Won’t Start In Cold Weather: Thickening of Car Fluids

Cold weather can cause essential fluids in your car, such as engine oil, transmission fluid, and antifreeze, to thicken. These fluids play crucial roles in lubricating and protecting the engine components, but when they become thick, they struggle to flow freely. Thickened fluids can create blockages in the engine, which can be why your car won’t start in cold weather.

To prevent this issue, it is recommended to use fluids specifically designed for cold weather conditions. These fluids have lower viscosity, allowing them to flow smoothly even in low temperatures. Regularly check the levels and condition of these fluids and consider using winter-grade variants for better performance in cold weather.

Related: Why You Shouldn’t Skip Your Routine Oil Change

3. Electrical Resistance and Starting Difficulties

Cold weather increases the electrical resistance within your car’s electrical system, posing challenges for the battery and spark plugs. The battery’s strength decreases significantly in colder temperatures, reducing its ability to provide sufficient power to start the engine. At 32°F, a car battery can lose up to 35% of its strength, and at 0°F, the loss can be as high as 60%.

To overcome this issue, it is important to ensure that your battery is in good condition and fully charged. Regularly test the battery’s voltage and consider using a battery charger or maintainer if necessary. Additionally, maintain a clean and secure connection between the battery terminals and cables to minimize electrical resistance.

4. Fuel and Brake Line Issues

Moisture can seep into worn fuel and brake lines, especially in cold weather conditions. This moisture can freeze and create blockages within the lines, preventing fuel from reaching the engine or brake fluid from flowing properly. As a result, your car may have difficulty starting or experience braking issues.

To avoid fuel and brake line problems, it is important to ensure that these lines are properly insulated and protected. Regularly inspect the lines for any signs of wear or damage and promptly replace them if necessary. Additionally, using fuel additives designed to prevent moisture buildup can help mitigate these issues.

car won't start in cold

5. Faulty Ignition System Components

Components of the ignition system, such as the ignition coil and spark plugs, can also be affected by cold weather. Cold temperatures can cause these components to become brittle or develop cracks, leading to poor ignition and starting difficulties. If your car’s ignition system is faulty, it may struggle to ignite the air-fuel mixture in the cylinders, resulting in a car that won’t start.

To address this issue, have your ignition system inspected and tested regularly, especially before the winter season. Replace any worn-out or damaged components to ensure proper ignition. Additionally, using spark plugs designed for cold weather can improve ignition performance in low temperatures.

6. Frozen Fuel Lines

In extremely cold conditions, fuel lines can freeze, causing blockages and preventing fuel from reaching the engine. This can lead to starting difficulties and even engine damage if not addressed promptly. Frozen fuel lines are more likely to occur if you have low fuel levels or if there is moisture present in the fuel system.

To prevent frozen fuel lines, it is crucial to keep your fuel tank adequately filled, especially during winter months. This helps reduce the amount of air and moisture in the tank, minimizing the risk of freezing. Using fuel additives designed to prevent fuel line freezing can also provide an extra layer of protection.

car won't start in cold weather

7. Faulty Coolant Temperature Sensor

The coolant temperature sensor plays a vital role in regulating the engine’s temperature. It provides feedback to the engine control unit (ECU) about the coolant temperature, allowing the ECU to adjust the fuel mixture and ignition timing accordingly. In cold weather, a faulty coolant temperature sensor may not accurately detect the temperature, leading to incorrect fuel mixture and starting difficulties.

If you suspect a faulty coolant temperature sensor, have it inspected and replaced if necessary. The proper functioning of this sensor is crucial for the engine’s performance and starting capabilities in cold weather.

8. Other Factors to Consider

Aside from the specific components mentioned above, there are a few additional factors that can contribute to a car not starting in cold weather:

  • Old or worn-out belts and hoses can become stiff and brittle in low temperatures, leading to belt slippage or hose leaks. Regularly inspect these components and replace them if necessary.
  • Cold weather can cause tire pressure to drop, affecting vehicle performance and stability. Check your tire pressure regularly and maintain the recommended levels.
  • Moisture or ice buildup on the ignition key or lock cylinder can prevent the key from turning smoothly. Use de-icing products or warm water to thaw the lock before attempting to start the car.
  • Poor-quality or diluted engine oil can thicken excessively in cold weather, compromising its lubricating properties. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the appropriate oil viscosity for winter conditions.

Preventive Measures and Tips for Starting Your Car in Cold Weather

To minimize the chances of your car not starting in cold weather, consider implementing the following preventive measures:

  1. Battery Maintenance: Regularly check and maintain your car battery by cleaning the terminals, ensuring a secure connection, and testing its voltage. Consider using a battery charger or maintainer if needed.
  2. Fluid Inspection: Regularly inspect and top up essential fluids such as engine oil, transmission fluid, and antifreeze. Use winter-grade variants where applicable to ensure optimal performance in cold weather.
  3. Insulation and Protection: Insulate and protect fuel and brake lines from moisture and freezing. Replace any worn-out or damaged lines promptly.
  4. Ignition System Inspection: Have your ignition system inspected and tested regularly to identify any faulty components. Replace worn-out or damaged ignition coils and spark plugs.
  5. Fuel Tank Maintenance: Keep your fuel tank adequately filled to minimize the risk of frozen fuel lines. Use fuel additives designed to prevent fuel line freezing.
  6. Coolant Temperature Sensor: Inspect and replace a faulty coolant temperature sensor if necessary. Proper functioning of this sensor is essential for accurate temperature readings and fuel mixture adjustments.
  7. Regular Maintenance: Stick to a regular maintenance schedule for your vehicle, including oil changes, filter replacements, and overall system inspections. This helps ensure that all components are in good working condition.

When starting your car in cold weather, follow these tips:

  • Cycle the Key: Switch off all accessories, and turn the key from the “off” to the “start” position several times to warm up the battery and starter.
  • Jumpstart: If your battery is weak, attempt a jumpstart using jumper cables and another vehicle. Follow proper safety precautions while doing so.
  • Call for Assistance: If all else fails and your car still won’t start, call for roadside assistance or have your vehicle towed to a trusted mechanic for further inspection and repair.

Car Won’t Start In Cold Weather: Conclusion

Cold weather can pose challenges for starting your car, but by understanding the potential issues and implementing preventive measures, you can increase your chances of a smooth start even in freezing temperatures. Regular maintenance, proper battery care, and using winter-grade fluids and additives can go a long way in ensuring your vehicle’s reliability during the winter season. Remember to follow safety guidelines and seek professional help when necessary. Stay prepared and enjoy a hassle-free driving experience, even in the coldest of weather conditions.

Don't get left in the dust!

Join our community to stay up to date on cool car stuff and updates every few days: