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Buckle Up: Good Luck Starting Your Car in Subzero Temperatures


This news story was published on January 24, 2014.
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(First in a series for NIT) By Bart –

A familiar site to North Iowans this January

A familiar site to North Iowans this January

It’s a bitterly cold morning. You grab your lunch and the kids and it is off to school and work. As everyone piles into the car, you turn the keys and it doesn’t start. You try again, nothing. You plea, “Not now, please not now, just this once, please start.” Just when you are relying most on your car, it fails you. Welcome to my first article. Buckle Up is a column for the everyday person looking for car tips. We will be covering everything from safety, buying, selling, trends, as well as maintenance. My goal is to help you get the most from your automobile.

replace-car-batteryThe most common issue these last few days were battery issues. You need a lot more power to start a cold engine, yet in the cold your battery can lose half of its power. If you have a weak battery in the fall, good luck making it though winter. The quickest and easiest solution is to take it to an auto parts store or battery store to have your battery tested before the cold weather hits. Almost all of them will do a free battery check. Most car batteries will last 3 to 5 years. When you try to start your car, the engine will have a tough time turning over or cranking. Your dash lights will most likely dim or go off. This is most likely the battery or a faulty battery connection.

Another common problem is a frozen fuel line. Your car will turn over or “crank” but never actually start. Why does this happen? Fuel breaks down and absorbs moisture. Ethanol fuel absorbs moisture out of the air even faster. Many of our fuels are blended with ethanol; check the label on the fuel pump next time you fill up. Here are some ideas to minimize fuel line freeze up:

fuel-cap1. Fill your gas tank up to full until pump clicks off. (Do not add any additional fuel after pump clicks off the 1st time, overfilling causes damage to your car and wastes fuel, the fuel tank is designed to have some space left in it for the fuel system to work optimally).

2. Click your fuel cap shut as instructed on cap. (A loose cap will allow air in to tank and increase moisture).

3. Avoid ethanol (“but we are in Iowa!”). Why? Because ethanol attracts water out of the air. If ethanol is fresh and used quickly, it is OK. If you love your ethanol, you should use a station that has regular traffic and gets its fuel delivered often. Also, if you don’t fill up often, avoid ethanol because it will lose its potency faster than gasoline.

4. Use the right grade (use your car’s recommended grade posted on the fuel cap, fuel door, or in the owner’s manual. This will provide quicker starts and better efficiency and higher miles per gallon).

5. Avoid fueling up in the extreme cold (if it is going to be cold, fuel up before it gets cold).frozen-car2

6. Avoid short trips (combustion process creates moisture, and short trips do not allow the car to reach optimum operating temperature to burn off the moisture in the fuel system. This is the temperature your car runs at once it warmed-up).

Look for more auto tips and information in our up-coming articles, next article Are Snow Tires Better than Four Wheel Drive for Winter?

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6 Responses to Buckle Up: Good Luck Starting Your Car in Subzero Temperatures

  1. Avatar

    Galactus Reply Report comment

    January 25, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Nice article, original content is always good, thanks for writing.

  2. Avatar

    Iowa Sucks Reply Report comment

    January 24, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    Man caught with marijuana because his car won’t start. There can’t be a story without any pot and meth.

  3. Avatar

    I researched it Reply Report comment

    January 24, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Fantastic original content with no negativity. I appreciate it. Keep it coming.

  4. Avatar

    my car wouldn't start, '03 toyota camry Reply Report comment

    January 24, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Matt this column is a great idea for NIT. A real change of pace. Bart, you are spot on with this analysis. What about the age/make/model of a car how much of a difference do you think that makes?

    • Avatar

      Bart Reply Report comment

      January 27, 2014 at 8:11 am

      Thank you for your comment. Recommendations above will relate to all cars. The older cars have parts that are more wore out, they don’t turn as easy or work as precise. This will add to the difficulties of starting the car in the cold.

  5. Avatar

    LVS Reply Report comment

    January 24, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Good article. I too have found after many years that if your battery is good and you keep the tank full these newer model cars will start.