In Quebec’s harsh winters, our vehicles have a rough time. Here are some basic tips to help ensure successful cold starts and get through the season stress-free... Follow the guide.
1. A “well-connected” car
A block heater heats up your vehicle’s coolant, ensuring the engine’s key components are at the perfect temperature for a trouble-free start when it’s cold out. It also means better fuel economy on the first 20 km of your trip, and helps heat the passenger compartment 40% faster than if a vehicle hadn’t been plugged in. These are very persuasive arguments for installing and using a block heater!
Just three hours’ heating is enough to achieve those gains, and a heater costs between $50 and $200, depending on the model.
Helpful hint: Try to get a block heater included in the price of your next vehicle purchase; it could prove far more useful than a set of floor mats!
2. Synthetic oil
Synthetic motor oil is more expensive than its conventional mineral-based counterpart, but retains more of its characteristics under cold-start conditions. Since a picture is worth a thousand words: in terms of texture, synthetic oil can be compared to maple syrup, while mineral oil is more like molasses. It’s easy to see which of the two is more appropriate for cranking an engine in the cold!
Helpful hint: Change your oil at the same time as you have your winter tires put on (making sure to comply with your vehicle’s maintenance schedule).
3. A good-quality battery
When you need to start your engine at minus 30 Celsius, your vehicle battery has just 25% of its maximum cranking capacity to draw on (and that’s if the battery is in as-new condition). Not only that, but the various high-tech gadgets in today’s vehicles are particularly demanding on the battery, even without the motor running. So it shouldn’t come a surprise that average battery lifespan these days is around four years!
Helpful hint: Don’t let the battery terminals succumb to corrosion (the blueish or white fuzz also called verdigris). If it gets between the clamps and cables, it can impair the electrical connection necessary to start the engine. Disconnect the battery and clean the contacts at the first sign of corrosion!
4. The rules of cold starting
1, 2, 3, 4... and no more! Never crank the engine continuously for more than 8 to 10 seconds. If it won’t start, wait at least 30 seconds and try again with the gas pedal depressed all the way to the floor: this optimizes the air-fuel mix needed for starting (without danger of “flooding” the engine, as used to be the case). If four attempts (always separated by 30 seconds) prove unsuccessful, stop trying. Remember that every model of vehicle has its own specifications. Refer to the owner’s manual.
Helpful hint: It’s never a good idea to drive with an empty or almost empty fuel tank, but this is all the more true in very cold weather. If you have an electric vehicle, be sure that the battery is fully charged before heading out on the road.
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