How to jump start a car in the cold Canadian winter

How should I start my car when it’s cold outside?

To begin with, this applies to vehicles less than 30 years old, which likely means it is fuel injected. Starting a cold car is relatively simple if you avoid a few critical mistakes.

1. Turn off unnecessary electrical equipment in your car.

When your engine is cold, it requires more battery power than when it’s warm. Turn off any unneeded accessories while you crank your engine over, allowing more power directly to the starter. Don’t worry, you can turn them back on as soon as your engine has fired up.

2. Turn the key, but no more than 10 seconds

Your engine will be ‘stiff’. This means that there’s more internal resistance than usual. The oil is thicker when it’s cold and the engine requires more effort to move past that resistance. Cold steel parts have contracted, increasing friction as well. When you turn your engine over, it should fire up within a couple seconds. If it doesn’t, make sure you don’t crank for more than 10 seconds. That can overheat the starter and cause it to malfunction. After 10 seconds, let the starter rest for a minute before trying again.

 3. Do not press the accelerator!

A fuel injected engine distributes its own fuel into the cylinders during startup. Pressing the accelerator pedal while you crank the engine will cause it to flood. That’s when excessive fuel wets the spark plugs and they are unable to ignite fuel in the cylinders. If you happen to press the accelerator and your engine floods, try mashing the accelerator pedal to the floor, then crank the engine for a few seconds. When the pedal is all the way to the floor, your car’s computer cuts the fuel delivery, letting the excess fuel escape the engine. Then try to start the engine once again. If your engine doesn’t start, try these tips:

  • Jump start your battery. A weak battery doesn’t have the necessary power to overcome the extra resistance. This is an indication you may need to replace the battery also, especially if you need to jumpstart your car often.
  • Let your car rest for 20 to 30 minutes. If your engine is flooded, letting your car sit for a bit will allow the spark plugs dry. Then, try to crank the engine again.
  • Plug in your engine block warmer. Some cars are equipped with a heating element that warms the engine. It’s best to plug it in for at least 60 to 90 minutes, or the night before, if you know it will be chilly. Make sure you unplug your engine block warmer before you drive away!

If you need assistance with jumpstarting your car, Sparky X can help you with our professional car jump start service in the following areas: Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, Markham, Stouffville and Scarborough!