Last Updated at
- 04:02 pm, December 23, 2011
Winter is here, and we show you how to avoid that frustrating cold-morning start-up ritual.
DIY: How to avoid cold-starting problems
What: How to avoid cold-start trouble
Why: Because starting the day with prayers is nice, yes, but not the kind of prayers that go “Please, God,make it start!”
When: First thing in the morning is when you usually get trouble – and especially if you’re running five minutes late to work.
Skill level: 1. This is a preventive DIY, so you need to pay attention to regular maintenance rather than corrective measures.
Equipment level: 0. Like we’ve said, this is a preventive DIY.
- If you’ve got a covered parking spot or a closed garage, use it. Batteries lose their power when cold, so it might take longer than usual to crank the engine. It will help keep the car slightly warmer than if you left it in the open. If you see near-freezing winters regularly, consider investing in a trickle charger. It will keep your battery juiced up for the day’s first start.
- Keep your fuel tank topped up. Cold temperatures will make water condense out of the air in the tank, and the water will get into your fuel lines at some point or another. The more fuel there is in your tank, the less air there is and therefore the less condensation there will be. This applies especially to coastal areas.
- Change your oil to a thinner grade. If you live in an area which sees really low temperatures consistently during winter, it will make sense to use engine oil with a thinner grade – in other words, less viscosity. Look at the alphanumeric number on the bottle – 5W40 is less viscous than 15W50.
- Be kind to the starter motor. If your car doesn’t start, don’t keep cranking it and hoping it will catch. Starter motors heat very quickly and can overheat – even if the rest of the car is too cold to start.
- Diesels take longer to start. By nature, a diesel engine needs to be warmer than a petrol to start operating so they might be harder to start. Notice the glow plug sign on the dashboard? Pay attention to it and let it go out before you crank the engine.
- Let your car idle for a while. Coolant temperatures frequently touch 100 deg Celsius, so the morning’s first start is especially important. If you do not let the coolant and oil warm sufficiently and circulate properly, there will be differential heating in the engine block and in extreme cases of temperature differences cracks may occur.
- Use the choke. This is an art long forgotten by the car user, but if you’re one of the rare breed that is using a carburetted car, don’t forget the choke during cold starts.
- Get a block heater. This is a big investment, so it is for you if you frequently get freezing temperatures. It is an electrically-heated element that keeps the engine block warm – which means you’ll have to have a power socket handy as well.
All you have to remember is to keep your car out of the cold and your battery and fuel tank topped up and you shouldn’t have too many starting problems.
First Published on 04:02 pm, December 23, 2011