How to Get a Car to Start in the Cold

How to Get a Car to Start in the Cold

During the winter, bears go into hibernation. They store lots of fats in their body, go to sleep, and wake up after several weeks (or months). Sometimes, though, your car seems to want to do that, too, especially if you don’t have a covered garaged in which to store your car when snow comes pouring in.

How to Get Your Car to Start in the Cold

image credit: AKX_ via Flickr
image credit: AKX_ via Flickr

Even if you just want to stay home and snuggle every single day of the winter, you need to go to work, or at least go out to buy groceries and food, or get firewood for your good old-fashioned fireplace.

So there you are wrapped in three (or more) layers of clothes to stay warm, car key in hand, remove snow that accumulated on the car, get in, key in the ignition, the engine cranks a little bit, and… nothing. Car refuses to start.

Nope, your car doesn’t hate you. That just what happens when it gets really cold!

Cold can do that to cars of different shapes and sizes, especially if your car is older or if your battery gave out. Oil tends to thicken during extreme cold. And that will lead to more friction, and makes it more difficult for the starter to fire up your engine. The cold can also slow down the chemical reaction process in the car battery, so the output of your battery is reduced compared to its usual summer time performance.

Most battery ratings are made at 77 Fahrenheit. When the temperature drops to 5 degrees, your battery’s capacity can drop to as low as 50%, even if it is fully charged.

What to do when your car won’t start?

Don’t kick your car or pound the car’s hood, all you need is to take a few deep breaths, and try the following:

If you think that the battery might have been drained over the past couple of days, then shut the door, turn off the A/C and heater, the blower, all lights, and your radio. In doing this, you may help the battery amp up its starting power.

If you turned the ignition a couple of times and it refused to start, you better let it sit for a few minutes before trying again. Let it recover, otherwise, if you keep turning the ignition, the starter might overheat. If you try it again, and the car seems to come close to starting but just can’t summon that last ounce of power to actually start, stop for a while, pause for a break. Then try again.

Try to remember the last time you used your car. Did you leave the headlights on? If you did, chances are the battery discharged and you will need to jump start your car battery.

Check your owner’s manual. I’m assuming you’re keeping the owner’s manual in one of the compartments in your car. There should be an information there about using at tiny bitty amount of throttle to get it going in the cold.

If it fails to start, then only have the following three options:

1. For manual transmission cars, you can jump start you car manually. This is an easy way to get your car going, but you will need some able-bodied individuals to push your car or roll it on a hill.

2. Jump start your car with another car. You will also need to call a friend or family to help you out and rescue you wherever you may be.

3. Use a portable car jump starter. If you keep one of these devices in your car, no matter where you get stuck with a bad battery, you are ready. After charging your car battery for a few minutes, you can start the engine, and off you go.

Click here for more tips on things to do when your car battery is dead.

If you tried jump starting your car and it still won’t start in the cold, then your car may be suffering from a different problem. Call roadside assistance or your mechanic to help you diagnose the problem correctly. Meanwhile, you may need to ride with an office mate or get yourself an Uber.