Why Won’t My Car Start in the Cold?

There might be nothing worse than waking up on a chilly morning, shoveling snow, and scraping ice off your car, all for your engine to not even turn over. 

Winters are just as hard for vehicles as they are for us. In this article, we’ll give you the rundown on what to look for in your car over the frosty months and how to prevent the low temperatures from causing your vehicle problems. 

How Does Cold Affect Your Car?

Cars use a variety of fluids for lubrication, cooling, and hydraulic pressure. From motor oil to transmission fluid and coolant, each of these fluids undergoes changes at low temperatures. While these liquids are all resistant to freezing, they do thicken up and flow at a slower rate, which can affect the sensitive components that rely on them. 

Cold weather also plays into the electrical and ignition systems of your vehicle. Low temperatures increase electrical resistance and make it difficult for your battery and spark plugs to properly power your vehicle and ignite fuel. 

Why Isn’t My Car Starting in the Cold?

There are a variety of possible sources for your vehicle’s trouble starting, including:

Battery Issues

As stated above, cold weather increases the electrical resistance of your battery. This can make weak batteries unable to properly power the vital systems needed for the car to start. 

Luckily, a dead or flat battery often comes with other signs. If you hear your clicking and whining noise but the starter motor is not able to turn over, there’s a good chance your battery is dead or dying. 

Signs of a dead battery can also include dim or flickering lights or an inability to unlock the car from your fob. 

Battery with jumper cables attached

Thick Oil Viscosity

Motor oil thickens up at lower temperatures, which can affect the way it flows and lubricates your engine. In severe scenarios, this can prevent your vehicle from starting immediately. 

This can be avoided by using the proper type of oil and using a full-synthetic motor oil that has good winter driving capabilities. The first number of an oil type (i.e. 5W in 5W-30) refers to the viscosity of the oil during the winter (hence the W), and the lower the number the thinner the oil will be. Choose the oil type that your manufacturer recommends. 

Weak Alternator

Similar to the battery, your alternator also sees an increase in electrical resistance in cold temperatures. This can cause problems when your alternator weakens its output over time to the point that it cannot properly power the vehicle on a cold day. 

If your vehicle dies shortly after jumping it or you notice the battery warning light on your dash while driving, there’s a chance that your alternator is the source of the trouble. 

Fuel System Condensation

In below-freezing conditions, the water content within the fuel can condense on the warmer parts of the fuel system. This water can freeze in low temperatures and create physical blockages that may prevent your engine from receiving the proper amount of fuel needed to run optimally. 

The best way to prevent condensation within the fuel system is to keep your tank full when possible over the winter, thereby minimizing the space in the fuel tank for condensation to occur. 

Problems Starting Your Car in Coeur d’Alene, Hayden, or Rathdrum?

If you’re in Northern Idaho and are experiencing issues starting your car, there’s nowhere better for quality diagnostics and repair than Lake City Auto Care. Our ASE-certified technicians have the expertise and equipment to properly take care of your vehicle and ensure it starts up the first time, every time. Call or schedule an appointment online with us today!

North Idaho's Best Warranty

We stand behind our work 100%. That's why we offer a five-year, 50,000-mile warranty on all services and repairs. You can rest assured that when you bring your vehicle to us, we've got you covered no matter what happens down the road.

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