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Why your car won't start in the cold

J&H Automotive

 

December 17, 2022

There are many myths out there regarding cold-weather driving, so we're here to share the truth about why your car won't start in the cold and other frigid facts.

Why do so many batteries die during the winter?

Winter is tough on batteries for two main reasons. The engines are far harder to turn over because all the oil inside them has turned to molasses. This demands much more current from a battery, and to add insult to injury, that battery cannot produce its normal amount of energy because of the cold.

The chemical reactions that generate electricity are slower at a lower temperatures. The huge current demands of the starter motor-200 to 400 amps-can cause the battery clamps to heat up if the connection at the clamp to post isn't perfect. When the car starts, the connection will cool off. That leaves a poor connection, and a poor connection can prevent the battery from getting fully charged. A discharged battery, unlike one that's fully charged, can freeze, damaging it internally.

That said, while more cars won't start on cold winter mornings, more batteries actually fail during the summer months, when intense heat cooks out the electrolyte, boiling the battery dry.

Does it help to warm up your car at lunch, so it starts easier after work?

If the car starts in the morning after cold-soaking all night, it certainly should start after eight hours parked in the office parking lot. If you've got a garage baby that won't start after a day out-of-doors and needs to be started every four hours, maybe it's time to change the plugs and get it running right.

If you start a cold engine and idle it for 10 minutes every day, you stand the chance of diluting the oil with unburned fuel that never gets a chance to burn off. That could cause premature engine wear-not to mention needlessly burning up some expensive gasoline.

Problem: ice in the fuel line

Unless you live somewhere where the temperature gets down to 100 degrees below zero, the gasoline in your car will not freeze. However, water moisture in the gas lines can become icy. "In regard to fuel, one of the things we do see, if there's any water content inside the fuel tank, that water can freeze and clog fuel pickup," Grant said.

Solution: Keep the tank at least half full

How does a diesel engine block heater work?

Normally, block heaters are installed in one of the factory freeze-plug locations. This allows them to most effectively heat both the coolant and the oil at the same time. They run off normal house 110V AC outlets, and many times the plug for the block heater can be seen hanging out of the grille. These heaters are popular in the Midwest, where winter temperatures regularly dip low enough to freeze the fluids in a vehicle's engine. It is recommended to have a qualified shop install your block heater, but if you're an experienced do-it-yourselfer who knows your way around an engine compartment, you shouldn't run into too many problems.

For more information please consult the knowledgeable technicians at J&H Automotive. The shop is located at 501 W. Tehachapi Blvd. and can be reached at (661) 822-9171.

 
 

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