Cold-Weather Car Starting Tips

These cold-weather car starting tips will help when homesteaders face nature's cold when starting up their car in winter.

| January/February 1987

Temperature Derating

Figure 1: Temperature Derating.


Car starting tips to help MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers cope with starting your car in winter weather. 

Cold-Weather Car Starting Tips

Cold is a stopper. In some pans of the country, the harshest day of the year is practically a traditional holiday-one that's most widely observed by cars. The drivers, unfortunately, still bundle up to give 'er a try. Not until the grinding moan of the starter has faded to a series of pathetic clicks will we admit that no creature with ordinary sense (a car, for example) would go out on a day like this for any reason other than to fetch more firewood.

We at MOTHER don't mind people taking an occasional unofficial holiday, but the premise bothers us. Why should the car decide when we take the day off?

What the Cold Does 

Cold weather makes the engine hard to start for two main reasons. First, oil thickens when it's cold, which increases friction and makes it harder for the staner motor to spin the engine. Cold also slows the chemical reaction in the car's battery, reducing its power output. Battery output is usually rated at 77 degrees Fahrenheit, below which starting power drops drastically. As shown in Figure I, (See the car diagrams in the image gallery) at 5 degrees Fahrenheit a fully charged lead-acid battery has only half its rated amp-hour capacity. You can ensure that your car will start in the worst weather by keeping the engine or the battery, or both, warm. But before we discuss some of the ways - short of building a heated garage - to keep the underhood cozy, let's review basic maintenance.

Prewinter Tune-up 

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