Freezing weather can damage car batteries, so it's important to prepare for the winter season and any problems that may arise with your vehicle. Read on so you know what to do if your car won't start and prevent this problem in advance.
Part 1 of 4: Starting the Engine
Step 1. Minimize electrical drain on the battery
Ideally, you should do this while you are in the car for the last time before cold weather hits. However, if you do it right before it starts, you are going to get the best chance of starting.
- Lock the car doors (mainly to keep the high beams off).
- Turn off all accessories, including the heater or fan, radio, and lights.
Step 2. Turn the key to start and hold it down for 10 seconds
Avoid holding it for more than 10 seconds, as the engine is more likely to not start if you force it too hard.
- If you put the key in the ignition, turn it and see if the instrument panel lights up. If you do, there will be at least some charge in the battery, which is a good sign.
- If you don't detect a sound (the engine doesn't make a starting sound or a ticking sound) when you turn the key and the instrument panel doesn't light up, the battery is most likely completely drained. Stop and get help starting the battery. No effort will get the car started unless you solve the battery problem.
- Turn the key and try to start the engine. Hopefully it will get off the ground with or without hesitation. Do not worry about this, as the motor will not be damaged.
- If you detect a ticking but no motor rotation, the battery probably doesn't have enough power to start. You should stop at this point, as the battery has been too discharged to start properly.
- If the engine won't start, wait a few minutes and try again. Sometimes this allows a residual charge to build up in the battery, which is probably enough to start the engine.
Step 3. Let the battery recover if the car won't start
If the car doesn't start after ten to twenty seconds, you should stop and wait a minute or two before trying to start again. This way, the battery will have time to recover, and it will have warmed up a bit. For the most part, this allows the starter motor to cool down.
- If the car is about to start but seems idle, pause and try again. If the battery is making no effort to start the engine, then it is dead and you will need to bridge.
- If after trying many times the starter motor is still sluggish, you may need to warm up the battery. You can remove it and bring it inside, but be aware that it may fail for a while after you reinstall it. You will not damage the vehicle by removing the battery. In extremely cold climates, it can take up to 2 hours to warm up the battery enough to increase its available amperage.
Step 4. Check your owner's manual
These days, almost all vehicles have cold start instructions in the operator's manual that indicate the use of a small amount of throttle to help with cold starts. Consult your vehicle's operator's manual for more information.
- If you don't have your car's owner's manual, you can order one from a car dealer, or find one at a salvage yard or auto parts chain.
- You can also get many owner's manuals online. Try typing "car owner's manual" into a reputable search engine and pick the relevant results.
Step 5. Gently press the gas pedal while parked if you have a car older than 1985 (with carbureted engines)
Press the gas pedal once and then release it. This will dispense a small amount of fuel at the entrance, which can help keep things running. Note that it is not necessary to do this with fuel injected engines. If the car is more modern (than about 1990), then it has electronic fuel injection.
Part 2 of 4: Bridging a Dead Battery
Step 1. Bridge the battery if it doesn't start fully
If the starter does not turn on at all, the battery is probably dead. This is the time to bridge. You're going to need a set of jumper cables and a volunteer willing to loan you their running car to complete the start.
Step 2. Run the car as close to the car with the dead battery as possible
If possible, position the front of the cars facing each other.
Step 3. Connect the auxiliary cables to the appropriate terminals
Look for the symbols + and - over the auxiliary cables and connect the one with the symbol + to the positive terminals on both the running car and the car with a dead battery. Then, connect the cable with the symbol - to negative terminals.
An easy way to remember how to connect the auxiliary cables is with the phrase “red out, red charged”. Connect the red clamp to the red post of the dead battery. Then, connect the red clamp to the red pole of the running car. Lastly, you should do the opposite for the black tweezers. The black post for the "loaded" car and finally the black clamp for the "exhausted" car. Note that the black clamp on the “dead” car should be connected to an unpainted engine bolt or alternator mounting bracket, and not to the battery terminal itself. This is all to avoid a short circuit
Step 4. Let the dead battery charge from the running car for a few minutes
When you are about to start the car with a dead battery, it may help to speed up the running car a bit (for example, 2000 RPM is sufficient).
Step 5. Try starting the car with a dead battery
If this procedure doesn't work on the first try, you should double-check to make sure the auxiliary cables are connected correctly (especially the negative or black cable connected to the battery) before letting the car run for a while. time and try again.
Step 6. Disconnect the cables immediately
However, continue to run the engines of both cars for several minutes to make sure both batteries have been charged enough to allow them to restart. Since modern cars have alternators, they can maintain the charging voltage even at idle RPM. There is no need for you to rev the engine.
Step 7. Replace the battery if necessary
At some point in the life of each car, the battery must be replaced. This is because car batteries have a limited lifespan, and no amount of maintenance or care can reverse the effects of chemicals on metal. Car batteries typically last about four years.
- If you plan to change a car battery on your own, be sure to turn off and park your vehicle with the emergency brake on.
- You should always wear gloves and safety glasses when changing a car battery, as batteries contain potentially dangerous acids and gases, which can be released if the battery is abused. You should also make sure to recycle your car battery using the correct procedures. You can take the used battery to a local recycling center or to certain repair shops.
Part 3 of 4: Prevent Problems
Step 1. Heat the engine with a block heater
This is a small heating device installed on the engine that plugs into an electrical outlet. It is used to warm the engine and oil and make starting easier. Engine block heaters are inexpensive, but must be installed correctly by a mechanic.
Step 2. Keep your car battery warm
The battery can distribute much more power when it is hot. To warm it up, you can use a battery wrap.
A battery wrap or blanket is usually a fixed installation of insulation and a heating element around the battery, which requires about an hour to sufficiently heat a battery
Step 3. Park indoors
You should park inside a garage to help protect the engine from freezing winds and low temperatures. If possible, you should heat the garage to maintain a warmer temperature.
Step 4. Use thinner oil
In extreme cold, oil thickens and does not flow quickly to vital engine parts that need lubrication. A lightweight, winter-grade oil flows more easily in cold weather and increases fuel economy. Your owner's manual should state the ideal type of oil to use.
Step 5. Use gasoline line antifreeze with fuel stabilizer
This antifreeze, which is also known as dry gas, is a chemical (essentially methyl hydrate) that is added to the fuel tank to inhibit line freezing. If the line freezes, the car will not be able to start until it is thawed. Many service stations often add an antifreeze agent to the fuel during the colder months. Check with the station of your choice and see if they offer this service.
Add dry gas to the fuel or tank before filling it (if possible) to make sure it is fully distributed inside
Step 6. Consider using a fuel conditioner on diesel engines
This is a multifunctional additive. A diesel engine starts better when cold when you use this conditioner, as it prevents fuel from “curdling” and ensures reliable performance in harsh winter conditions.
Step 7. Keep the fuel tank full
Condensation will form on the tank walls and eventually sink to the bottom and cause freezing problems in the fuel lines. It is much more difficult to start a cold car with a near empty tank, so you should fill the tank often during the winter before letting the car settle.
Part 4 of 4: preparing the car for winter
Step 1. Replace the windshield wipers and their fluid
Blades crack in the cold and become much less effective, which can be dangerous in bad weather conditions. Low visibility can make cold weather driving extremely dangerous, so it's important to make sure your windshield wiper blades are in good condition. You should replace them every 6 months or so.
Step 2. Check the tire pressure and consider swapping out for snow tires
Extreme changes in temperature affect tire pressure, and driving at the wrong pressure can be quite dangerous. Cold tires work differently than those that have been warmed up, so you need to do some driving before checking the pressure at the gas station or tire stores.
If you live in a place with heavy snowfall, consider installing snow tires on your car or getting a set of chains to use in bad weather. However, you should check your local laws regarding the use of chains, as they are illegal in some regions due to the risk of damage to the road surface
Step 3. Maintain the battery
Winter is inclement on batteries for two main reasons. The battery cannot produce its normal amount of power due to the cold, and the chemical reactions that generate electricity are slower at lower temperatures. The occasional check of a car battery will help you stay on top of any maintenance issues. However, you should keep in mind that most batteries only last three to five years. Also, engines are difficult to start because the oil inside is thicker, demanding more amperage from the battery. However, multi-viscosity oils (such as 10W30) alleviate most of this impact.
- Check that the battery cables and clamps are not frayed or corroded. If you notice a white, powdery substance around the clamps, it is due to corrosion from battery acid. You can easily clean it with baking soda, water, and a toothbrush.
- Your battery contains a liquid electrolyte, which can evaporate and leak, so make sure it has enough in it. Most batteries have caps on the top, so you can check the level by removing the caps. If it is low, you should fill the holes with distilled water, being careful not to fill past any fill level indicator or the bottom of the cap.
- You should remove as much snow and ice from the car as possible, as this procedure helps it run and slowly warm up as you do so. Also, a lot of icy snow on the car is doing you no favors. It removes large amounts of snow from the car and breaks up the accumulated ice in the wheel wells. Make sure your windshield wipers and fluid lines are free of ice.
- To keep the battery warm, you can also unhook the terminals and bring the battery indoors overnight. Although this procedure requires a bit of effort, it can be easier than spending 30 minutes each morning trying to resuscitate the battery.
- Before leaving, you should start the car for a few seconds depending on how cold the weather is. Engine oil is viscous in cold weather and does not lubricate properly until a few seconds after starting the engine.