Things to Know About Starting Vehicle in Cold Temperatures - Toyota Service Information To Know in Salem, OR

Did you know that the weather can have a dramatic effect on your car and how easy it is to start? Very cold temperatures can wreak havoc on your battery, on the rate of oil flowing through the engine, it can even cause the wrong windshield wiper fluid and coolant to freeze! Below, the experts at Capitol Toyota have some tips for starting your car safely in very cold weather. Thankfully, today's modern cars can take the cold a whole lot better than classic cars from years ago, but these five tips can help the next time a winter storm rolls through.

Jump Starting Car In Snow

5. Why Starting Your Car Is Harder In Very Cold Weather

While the temperatures rarely get this cold here in beautiful, mild Oregon, a winter cold snap is precisely the time when you want your vehicle to start right up the most. And very cold temperatures are especially hard on your engine.

For one thing, car batteries don't like the cold. It's important that you use a car battery that has enough Cold Cranking Amps -- that's a measurement of how many cranking amps you'll have at your disposal at 0° Fahrenheit. At these below-freezing temperatures, a car battery may have lost as much as 60 percent of its starting power compared to room temperature! And since Salem's record low temperature reached a bitter -12° Fahrenheit, it's important to have a powerful enough battery for those cold winter nights.

Furthermore, engine oil flows more slowly at very cold temperatures. Before the engine warms up, the engine oil won't be providing as much lubrication, making the car harder to start.

Key In Ignition

4. Give The Car A Moment In The On Position Before Starting The Engine

In a modern car with electronic fuel injection, there is no need to let things warm up before you turn the key and embark. Just to be safe, we recommend pausing briefly after turning the key to the on position -- maybe just long enough to put your seatbelt on? -- before turning it to the start position.

In that little window of time, the engine control module is detecting the current conditions (including outside temperature) and making any necessary adjustments. By the time you've put on your seatbelt, the fuel system is ready for you to turn the key, crank the starter and get the engine running.

3. Turn Off All Electronic Accessories

When the engine is on, the alternator provides all the electricity to your accessories like the climate controls and stereo. But, when the engine is off, those accessories are getting power directly from the battery. Since the battery already has less strength due to the low temperature, it's wise to turn as much off as possible before turning the key to start the engine. Even if your battery has plenty of power to start the engine, it may not have enough power to start the engine and run the stereo and the heated seats and the heated cupholders. Turn these items off briefly, then turn them back on once the engine has started.

Engine Temperature Gauge

2. Don't Engage The Starter For More Than 10 Seconds

If the temperatures are extra cold, fuel may flow more slowly and the engine may need to crank a little longer before it starts up. However, don't let the starter crank for more than 10 consecutive seconds. The starter is a small but powerful motor that needs to use a lot of power very quickly to turn the much heavier engine over. Letting this starter work for more than 10 seconds could actually cause it to overheat and sustain damage. Allow the engine to crank for a few seconds if necessary, but don't crank it excessively.

While you certainly don't have to press on the gas to get the engine started in a modern car, if the engine cranks and doesn't start, you can try giving the engine a little bit of gas the next time you try to start it. Just give the starter a few moments to cool down between attempts.

1. Allow The Engine To Warm Up Before Pushing It

Once the engine has started, assuming your way forward is clear (since temperatures this cold often mean waiting for a few minutes for the defroster to do its thing before embarking), you can drive right away. There is no problem with putting the car in drive and driving normally once the car has started, even in extremely cold temps.

However, and this holds true no matter what the weather, don't push your vehicle too hard until the engine has reached its optimal operating temperature. When the temperature needle is still in the blue, oil isn't flowing as well as it should. The engine can tolerate normal RPMs for everyday city driving, but if you're trying to merge onto the highway or tow a trailer, you may want to allow the engine to warm up some first. But, if you just have an ordinary commute, don't worry about warming up the engine. If you can see out the windshield, and your hands aren't frozen into useless little fists, it's safe to begin driving.