Monday, December 26, 2011

Starting your car in winter

Starting a car in winter is nothing like it use to be back when cars were carbureted. With modern fuel injection most people don't even think or wonder if their car will start. This is a good thing but just because your car starts doesn't mean it is ready to go. No I am not saying you need to let it warm up for a few minutes or any thing like that. When the weather gets colder it is even harder on your vehicle and special precautions should be taken. Below are my recommendations for start your car when it is really code.

  1. Let it run for a bit once started - I am not talking about the 1-3 minute warm up time of old as that isn't needed. What I am saying is put your foot on the break put the car in gear (if it has an automatic transmission) while running and let the fluids circulate and built pressure for a few seconds before driving off. This is usually when I am putting my seat belt on and adjusting the radio, you know 10-15 seconds. When it is cold oil doesn't flow as fast so why risk damage to your engine or transmission by running it faster than it needs to before oil has fully circulated. 
  2. If you have a block heater plug it in the night before. Block heaters a wonderful they either heat the oil or heat the coolant so that your vehicle has an easier time starting and also causes it to warm up quicker. If your vehicle doesn't have one installed you can get some aftermarket ones that you put in line with the coolant system or can attach to the oil pan. They are well worth their cost.
  3. Put the batter on the charger over night - You are not trying to charge the battery but you are trying to keep some warmth in the battery. So by putting it on a charger at the 1.5 to 2 amp trickle charge you can ensure that the battery doesn't freeze. For instruction on how to charge your batter see this article.
  4. Drive lightly - Once your vehicle is started don't drive it like a race car until it is up to full operating temperature. This means driving it lightly as you go through the neighborhood and don't do the jack rabbit starts from a stop. 
  5. If you flooded the engine (yes this can happen with fuel injected vehicles if you press the gas pedal down some when trying to start it) there is a way to unflood  it with modern fuel injected vehicles. Press the gas pedal all the way to the floor and as soon as you hear the engine catch let off the gas. You shouldn't be touching the gas pedal when starting a fuel injected vehicle even in the cold weather. these aren't like the old cars with carburetors
  6. If you have a diesel vehicle you have your own set of issues and probably know these secrets for getting it started but a neat trick I learned from one of my coworkers who has a diesel is to use some of those adhesive block heaters* that stick to your oil pan but instead stick them to your fuel tank. This will prevent your diesel fuel from gelling up and makes starting easier.
* Note I am not sponsored by or endorsing O'Reilly Auto Parts I just know that they carried the adhesive block heater pads and wanted to provide an example. I have no relationship with O'Reilly Auto Parts other than as a customer.

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