Category Archives: winterizing your car

Why is my car slow to start in cold weather?

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woman trying to repair broken down carWhen the weather is frigid, it can be hard to convince yourself to head out into the freezing cold. It can even feel like your car doesn’t want to go out—especially when your car is slowly cranking. A car slow to start doesn’t have to be a normal part of cold weather; if it is, there are a few key reasons why your car starts slowly on a cold winter morning.

Why is a car slow to start in winter?

When the temperature drops, engine oil turns to the consistency of molasses. It takes more power to turn over an engine when the oil is sludge. If a battery is low on power, the result is the slow cranking of the engine on a cold morning. Eventually, the battery stops working.

Car batteries can decrease in power due to age or the heat. Summer heat can cause battery fluid to evaporate, damaging the battery’s internal part and decreasing battery performance. Older batteries can also lose power over time; car batteries should usually be replaced every 3-5 years. (Schedule an appointment to get a new battery installed.)

Slow cranking is only one sign of a dead battery. You can also tell if a car battery needs to be replaced if it needs to be jump started on a regular basis. Some cars also have a dashboard warning light that comes on when battery power is low.

In extremely rare cases, cars might not start in cold weather because of moisture in the fuel lines. Put simply, condensation can get into the fuel lines. The moisture can interrupt the flow of fuel and cause a slow start (or no start at all).

Older vehicles with carburetors can also have issues in the cold weather. This problem primarily occurs after the car has been sitting for a long time.

Sometimes, the slow start of a car has nothing to do with the cold weather. A slow-starting car can be caused by old spark plugs, which should be replaced every 30-100,000. (Ask your mechanic if it’s time for the spark plugs to be replaced.) A failing starter or corroded wiring can also cause a car to start slowly (or not at all).

How can I keep my car starting smoothly in the cold weather?

To avoid the annoying slow start of a car in cold weather (and other winter breakdowns), use these cold weather car maintenance tips:

  • Have the battery checked on a regular basis. A mechanic can test the battery to determine when it is low on power.
  • Regularly schedule oil changes. Ask your mechanic how often the oil should be changed.
  • When the temperature drops, check the tire pressure on every tire (including the spare). Frigid temperatures cause a sharp drop in air pressure (use these step-by-step instructions for checking tire pressure). Make sure to check the spare tire as well, so it is in good shape in case of a flat tire.
  • Make sure car fluids are topped off. Add checking the oil and antifreeze level on a regular basis. Both of these fluids are essential for a smooth-running car.
  • Pack an emergency car kit. A car kit may not stop a car’s slow start, but it can be helpful if a battery suddenly goes dead or the car breaks down. Use this list of emergency car kit essentials to assemble a complete kit—and don’t forget to pack cold weather gear that can keep you warm when you get stranded in the freezing weather.

12 Winter Breakdown Tips

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car winter breakdownNo one wants to be stranded by a winter car breakdown, but sadly do they do happen. When they do happen, it’s nice to have a trusted local car repair shop. These winter car breakdown tips are for that in-between time when you’re stranded on the side of the road. You know what we’re talking about: when the car suddenly starts making odd noises, or stutters (no gas?), or won’t start. You’re stuck. You’re stranded. Here’s what to do while you wait for help:

  • Keep up with required maintenance to avoid breakdowns (use these car maintenance tips to prevent winter car breakdowns).
  • Try not to stop on a curve or hill.
  • Turn on your flashers so you are visible to other cars.
  • Pull over as far out of the road as possible without getting stuck.
  • Carry the name of your trusted roadside assistance provider.
  • Keep your cell phone charged so you can make an emergency call.
  • When calling for help, give as much information as possible about your location (i.e. closest businesses, closest highway exits, etc.)
  • Always carry an emergency car kit.
  • Stay with your vehicle.
  • If the vehicle still runs, turn it on periodically for warmth. (Make sure the exhaust pipe does not get blocked by ice or snow.)
  • If the road is slippery, be careful about getting out of the car (both for your own safety and because of other cars coming).
  • Get the vehicle towed to your trusted car repair shop ASAP so you can get back on the road.

6 Ways to Prepare Your Car for Winter Driving

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truck driving on winter road with snow tiresWhen the weather feels like a roller coaster, it can be easy to get caught off guard. One minute, you’re enjoying pleasant fall weather then…BOOM! you’re driving in a snow storm. Here’s how to stay ahead of the snow forecast (at least in regards to your car!) so you and your car are ready for the first Wisconsin snowfall—and for all the slippery, wet winter driving.

Get your fluids checked

Low vehicle fluids can spell disaster when you need them the most this winter. Check your antifreeze level in your reservoir to ensure that your car doesn’t overheat at a vital time (like in the middle of a snowstorm). Make sure your oil level is between the two lines on your dipstick (find directions for checking your oil here) so your engine doesn’t leave you stranded.

For optimal visibility, check your windshield washer so you can clean your windshield during a heavy snowfall. As long as you’re at it, inspect windshield wipers for wear and tear. If they are in bad shape, purchase a new set to get you through winter—you don’t want to go through a bad winter storm without a properly functioning windshield wiper.

Make sure your battery starts

Winter temperatures can turn your vehicle fluids to the consistency of molasses, meaning you need a strong battery to turn your engine over. If your battery is old, or weakening, it may not have the power to start up your car and leave you stranded with a dead battery. So you don’t get stuck out in the cold, ask your mechanic to check your battery and make sure it’ll make it through another winter.

Check your brakes

Prompt braking is an important part of winter driving. As you drive, pay close attention for signs your brakes need replacing or have your mechanic check your brakes so you can easily stop when needed (like during a heavy snow fall). Make sure you have adequate brake pads to ensure that you can avoid accidents when the roads are wet.

Put on snow tires

If you have to venture out in the worst winter weather, consider purchasing a set of snow tires for your vehicle. Snow tires are specifically designed for traction and handling through all the snow that comes with winter driving. Constructed with a softer compound and tread pattern designed specifically for getting through snow and ice, snow tires can find traction on even the roughest roads.

Remember as you shop for tires that traction control, common on many vehicles, is not a replacement for snow tires; traction control adjusts the speed of your tires to conditions, but does not give your vehicle more traction while driving.

Stock up

Winter road emergencies are, unfortunately, a part of winter driving. Assemble a winter driving kit before the weather turns bad. Store your supplies, like a flashlight, jumper cables, boots, shovel, gloves, and other necessities (a full list of winter emergency kit supplies are here) in a waterproof container that can withstand the winter weather.

Check your four wheel drive

If you have a vehicle with four wheel drive, make sure it’s ready to function when needed. Test your four wheel drive, and have your mechanic repair any issues so you can head out on the road when our winter roads turn slippery and wintry.