When winter weather comes, so too does the possibility of turning the key in your car only to find it won’t start; contrary to popular belief, it’s not always the battery, and even when it is, that doesn’t mean you’ve found the cause. If you find you have trouble getting your car to start in the winter, you might try some of the trouble-shooting tips below.
The first place to look is usually the battery. If you turn the key and here only a little click, or nothing at all, that usually means your battery has lost its power. This grows more common as batteries age and are less able to cope with severely cold temperatures. To get going again, you’ll need to get a jump. To keep it from happening again, you’ll need to get a new battery.
On the other hand, while it’s true that some batteries lose power when the temperature plunges, sometimes, the problem might be something a little deeper than just an old battery having trouble keeping a charge. Sometimes the real problem might be with your alternator, which is basically, nothing more than a motor that charges your battery when the engine is running. If the alternator fails to charge your battery, then your battery will slowly die, and you’ll likely first notice it on a cold morning when it takes more battery power to get the engine to turn over. The solution here is to get your battery jumped, and then to drive immediately to a service station to have the alternator checked, and then fixed or replaced.
Something else you might want to consider is the condition of your oil. If the oil becomes too thick due to cold temperatures, no amount of battery power will be able to get it to turn over. This is why it’s a good idea to get your oil changed before cold weather arrives. Also, be sure to put in the grade of oil that is appropriate for your climate. If you live in a northern part of the country, you’ll need a thinner oil than if you live down south. Check with your mechanic for the proper oil for your vehicle.
Also, if the fluid in your radiator grows too cold it can turn to sludge or worse, completely freeze. Sludge can make it impossible for your engine to turn over. If it freezes, the expansion can cause your block to crack, which will ruin your engine completely. The only way you’ll get a car to start that has sludge or ice in the radiator is to warm the car somehow, which usually means getting a tow to a garage or waiting for warmer weather. The key to avoiding this kind of problem is checking the fluid in your radiator before cold weather hits, and adding enough anti-freeze to ward off cold weather problems.