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Why Your Car Won’t Start in The Cold

Winter weather is tough on cars, and on their drivers. The temperature drops below freezing and you have to deal with snow, sleet and slush. To top it all off, you get in the car one chilly morning and turn the key, only to find your vehicle wouldn’t start. Let’s take a closer look at what winter does to your vehicle, the main reasons your car won’t start, and how to deal with it when it happens.

Why Cars and Cold Weather Don’t Get Along

We tend to think about our vehicles as machines, but there’s also a lot of chemistry involved. Car problems related to the cold are usually caused by a combination of chemical and mechanical malfunctions. Here are some common problem areas:

Your Battery

A battery that worked fine during the spring, summer and fall can fail as the temperatures drop. This is because your battery runs on a chemical process, and colder temps can slow this process. The colder it gets, the less power for the battery. There are some ways to troubleshoot a pesky battery during cold temperatures. First, turn off anything that can draw power away from a battery should the car not be able to start. Try turning the key, but only for ten seconds, and it should eventually start. If this doesn’t work, you can try get a jumpstart. Another idea is to have a roadside assistance membership, or tow your vehicle to a Integrity Automotive to have us take a look.

Your Fuel

If you turn the key and the engine cranks like it usually does — but doesn’t start — your problem could be fuel-based, as opposed to being a battery issue. The colder it becomes, the hard your car has to work on the inside to get it running. As the fuel is a liquid, it can be harder for your engine to process and get the car running during colder temperatures. Diesel-powered vehicles have their own wintertime issues. Diesel fuel can turn into a gel at low temperatures, preventing it from flowing into the engine. Most solutions to fuel problems involve getting your vehicle into a warmer environment, where above-freezing temperatures will eventually help. Typically, a tow will be needed.

Your Engine Oil

Another effect of low temperatures is a thickening of the oil inside your engine, which keeps it from flowing as well as it should. To get your car started, the starter motor has to try to spin all the moving parts of the cold engine — oil help lubricate these parts. But thicker oil creates more resistance. If the starter system can’t overcome this resistance, the vehicle won’t start. Your oil can be too thick for a few different reasons. It may be a type that’s more suitable for summer use, or it could be that you haven’t changed your oil in a long time — oil thickens as it ages. You can check your engine’s dipstick to see if the oil level is low. If so, stop by Integrity Automotive in between oil changes with us and we will top it off for free. You can also take advantage of our oil change punch card deal! When you buy three oil changes, you get the fourth for a hefty discount! Speak with one of our front desk staff for more information.

Preventitive Maintenance

Something we stress a lot on our blogs, social, and newsletters is the importance of preventive maintenance! Battery care, oil changes, brakes, and more are examples of things that need routine maintenance in order to be performing at optimum function. We have a great scheduled maintenance package that allows your car to receive the “full look over” it needs in order to figure out what is necessary to repair, and what isn’t. Our technicians will work with you to do what’s best for your budget and help you prioritize the greatest need for your car. If you stay on top of your usual maintenance routine, you can have a car last well into the 200k mileage mark and beyond. Regardless of depreciation, your vehicle is a necessary investment for your daily life. Give it the care it needs.