There are many reasons no one likes to drive when the weather is unbearably cold. These reasons include slippery roads, seasonal tire swapping, worrying about tire chains, and so forth.
Table of Contents
However, a dreaded problem with the cold is not being able to start your car.
How cold is too cold to start a car? Read on to find the answer.
Here’s the answer to how cold is too cold to start a car:
There’s no global benchmark to determine the temperature limit for starting a vehicle since engines and batteries have different tolerances for cold. A weak engine would have trouble starting in the mild cold while a healthy engine would exceed expectations. However, you’d see that different factors come into play.
How Do You Start a Car When It’s Too Cold?
Starting a car when it’s too cold depends on the intensity of the cold. Sometimes, simply putting your keys in the ignition and starting your car would be enough.
Chances are it won’t always be that simple, however, you shouldn’t skip this step.
First, you need to know why cars don’t start easily in cold weather. While there are many reasons, two major ones are because of the battery and engine oil. Thus, to start your car in the cold, you’d have to consider the roles they both play.
If a normal start doesn’t work, try turning off accessories in your vehicle like the interior and exterior lights. It doesn’t matter if it’s dark outside; you want to make sure your car starts first. After doing this, try starting your car again, but don’t overdo it to avoid straining your starter motor.
A rule of thumb is to try for only 10 seconds. Give one-minute intervals between attempts and it should start smoothly. When your car comes on, your battery can now get warm enough to power your car accessories.
Also, reduce using electrical accessories in winter for overall ease of starting your vehicle. This practice reduces the workload for your battery and helps it better provide power to start the engine.
In the winter, starting your car is not half as important as storing it. The idea is to keep your car as warm as possible; this is where a garage comes in handy.
Cars stored in garages would start more easily when the day breaks than cars left in the cold overnight.
We’d discuss more precautions to take to ensure you have a hitch-free winter. You should also know that there are many reasons a car might not start on a regular day.
However, for the sake of simplicity, we’ve focused on reasons regarding the weather in this article.
How Long Does It Take to Defrost a Car Before It Starts?
The answer to this question depends on how thick the snow or ice on your car is. Another factor is how long the ice has been there.
Snow and ice have a habit of sticking to car windshields after a while.
However, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to clear your windshield and get your car roadworthy. There are 3 great methods to defrost a car and you can use each of them depending on the snow volume.
The popular way is to use your car’s defroster, which uses the heating and ventilation system to thaw any ice. The second way involves physically scraping the snow off your car. An aftermarket defroster is the third option and it can be applied to any car window.
You can get most of the job done with an ice scraper. After scraping your windshield, windows, and rear window, use warm water and towels to clean any residue on the glass. The aftermarket defroster can also thaw the ice if you’re in a hurry.
If you have a garage, then you wouldn’t have to deal with rigorous defrosting every winter morning. If your garage isn’t heated, your car defroster should be able to handle any minor frost build-up (if any) easily.
Depending on the weather intensity, you may also want to take the extra precaution of using windshield water repellent. This ensures that snow, ice, or water have a hard time sticking to your windshield. Again, it may not be necessary if you have a garage.
There are several other ways to defrost your car and many of them are specific to some types of models. However, these three methods should apply to most cars.
What Cars Are Best for Extremely Low Temperatures?
There are many ways to answer this question, but we’ll pick the most straightforward method.
The best cars for low temperatures are cars that come with a winter package. However, in many car models, the winter package is an optional feature and not standard.
But first, what is a winter or cold weather package?
Well, vehicles with cold weather packages have extra features that make them more adaptable to the cold. This means they have much better heating systems, heated seats, more efficient defrosters, and so forth.
The Hyundai Kona, for example, has a heat pump that uses recycled heat to keep the car warm. The Audi e-Tron also has a heat pump alongside a cold weather package. Other cars that’ll do great in cold weather include the BMW i4, Hyundai Ioniq, Chevrolet Bolt, and so on.
Tesla takes it a step further with their heat pump starting system in the Model S and X. With heat pump starting systems, it’s hard to experience a delayed or hard start because of low temperature.
Hence, although electric cars are usually more affected by the cold, modern technology has them thriving under such conditions.
There are car models whose engines are more resistant to low temperatures. However, when compared to the difference that winter weather packages make, their extra resistance appears negligible.
Also, if you experience harsh winters every season, a car that starts easily in the cold is not enough. You’d want a vehicle that can cruise comfortably through tough terrain like mud, snow, and sludge.
YourMechanic says the Jeep Wrangler, Volvo XC90, Mercedes-Benz G-63, Subaru XV Crosstrek, and Audi Allroad are suited for winter roads.
How Do You Warm Up a Car Battery in Cold Weather?
The most basic way to warm up your car battery is by driving. It is common knowledge that no car likes to sit idle for too long. This phenomenon is truer in cold weather.
Hence, in the winter, it’s ideal that you drive frequently. This means you have an advantage if you drive to work in your car every day.
There are several ways to keep your battery warm and one common way is to use a battery blanket. You may also know it as a thermal wrap.
It may appear incapable during harsh winters, but it has a huge effect, especially when used with a car blanket.
You can take it a step further and use a plug-in electric battery heater instead. While this isn’t common everywhere, it may be the only practical option in extremely cold regions.
Although plug-in heaters may seem like too much work, they’re worth it. This is because they make a tremendous difference in your day-to-day winter life. In fact, with a battery heater in your possession, you only have one other major winter problem to deal with.
As a rule of thumb, don’t let a battery heater become a substitute for keeping your car warm. It’s best to keep following all precautions to have the best experience in the winter.
Can Very Low Temperatures Kill a Car Battery?
Believe it or not, a delayed start is not the only terrible effect of winter. If your battery is not well protected against the cold, it can die.
So, don’t be quick to assume that your battery is simply cold. You should consider the possibility that it might be dead. If that happens, you’d need to either recharge or replace it.
Note that you shouldn’t attempt to use your alternator to charge a dead battery. Also, a charged and frequently used battery would not easily die in the cold. With that in mind, you now know the best state for your battery to be in.
The measures you take would depend on the intensity of the cold in your location. In freezing areas, you may need to combine a battery heater with an engine block heater. With these two measures and a warm garage, it’ll be tough for any weather to kill your battery.
What Other Measures Should I Take?
As you now know, many factors affect the way vehicles respond to low temperatures. Believe it or not, the engine oil you use plays a huge role in engine performance during the winter. Still confused? We’ve explained what happens in two sentences.
Engine oil lubricates the engine components and helps the engine start smoothly. However, when the temperature drops, it becomes thicker and loses its mobility.
For this reason, manufacturers use new oil formulas in cars today with different synthetic oils taking the lead. The great news is; with easy-to-flow engine oil, the car battery has less work to do. Hence, they complement each other.
Fuel lines are to cars what veins are to humans. However, they get blocked if small amounts of water in the lines freeze and expand because of the reduced temperature.
Expectedly, any car would have a hard time starting if fuel lines that supply fuel to its engine are blocked.
That’s why gas-line antifreeze is added to fuel to help expel water from the fuel mixture and reduce its effects. However, before adding antifreeze, it’s best to be sure that it hasn’t already been added from the gas station.
You should also check your battery terminals frequently for signs of corrosion. This is because corrosion is a common cause of delayed or no start. Diesel fuel is also known to change to a gel-like form in low temperatures.
If you drive a diesel vehicle, you may need to use a fuel conditioner to counter the effects of gelling. Again, you have to be sure that it’s not already added from the gas station.
As we’ve established, there’s no single reason or solution for a car that won’t start in the cold. The best way to handle winters is by looking out for all causes and preventing them.