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General rules for car preparation and operation in winter

Probably every driver has been in a situation when on a frosty day, the engine just wouldn’t start. In order to prevent reoccurrence of such an event, one has to learn the “Driver’s Code of Rules.”

Constituent Elements of a Successful Engine Start in a Frost

Remember that engine starting is determined, apart from the battery, by many other parameters, starting from air humidity and ending with additive compounds in the petrol. Let us consider the main constituent elements of a successful engine start in a frost.


A good battery is a sound investment. Aim for a battery with high starter currents.

When installing a new battery under the hood, check adapter tension, remove oxides and dirt from the place of mass wire connection to the engine, clean terminals and terminal caps.

After assembling the circuit, use any water-free lubricant to grease the pole terminals on top. Check the generator belt tension and battery charge voltage (using a voltmeter).

Important! Once a month during the winter or if you haven’t used your car for more than two weeks, check the voltage on the battery terminals with load off. With open circuit voltage below 12.6 V, it makes sense to recharge the battery.


Savings on oil are not cost efficient. Oil is the car’s “blood.” Ask for the shop assistant’s advice when buying oil.

The first number with the letter W (Winter) means that the oil belongs to the so-called winter type with low temperature viscosity grade.

Oil 0W-40 or 5W-40 is preferable in winter.

Spark Plugs

Good quality spark plugs are a prerequisite for successful engine starting. Pre-winter replacement of spark plugs is preferable. For the winter period, purchase a “hotter” type of plug (ask shop assistant for advice), it will prevent their fouling and generation of conducting deposits in case of frequent cold engine starts.

Use a higher octane number of petrol to fuel your car in winter.

High Voltage Lines

To ensure normal ignition make sure there is no current leakage through the wiring insulation fraction or along its wet surface. Current leakage results in lack of energy for ignition.

How to Start Your Car in Winter

  1. Before starting the engine, press the clutch. After starting, release the foot pedal slowly. Wait for another minute for the oil to warm up in the transmission in neutral.
  2. If during starter cranking, the engine didn’t start on the first try within 10 seconds, stop cranking. The pause before the second start should be at least 30 seconds. If you are unable to start the car a third time, stop trying and look for the reason why the engine won’t operate. Only after eliminating the fault, can you resume attempts to start the engine, otherwise the battery will discharge. In case of insufficient cranking rate, warm up the battery up using available methods, and recharge it when possible.
  3. If your car is equipped with a regulator for enrichment of the fuel mixture, do not enrich the mixture at once, but do it gradually while cranking the engine, until it “catches.” The same refers to the throttle pedal.
  4. There is a common misbelief that turning the headlights on prior to engine start positively impacts on the starting process. Provided that your car is well prepared to winter, you don’t need this procedure; but it will not save a weakened battery and will only aggravate the situation. The already lacking power will be used for the lights instead of starting the engine.

Radical Measures

  1. A warm battery from home, heated-up spark plugs.
  2. Jump start. While doing this, observe the following safety requirements:
  • stop the “donor” car engine.
  • Disconnect the “negative” standard cable from “−“ terminal of the discharged battery;
  • connect the terminals “+” of both batteries with one of the jumper cables;
  • use another jumper cable to connect terminal “−“ of the “donor” to the “mass” (body or generator) of the car whose battery was discharged;
  • start the engine of the car with discharged battery, set medium rpm on it;
  • connect the terminal “−“ of the discharged battery to the standard cable and disconnect the jumper cable from the car on which the battery is installed.
If the “donor” car has an electronic engine control system, try to perform both of these actions simultaneously to avoid controller damage.

Remember that if the “donor” battery is fully charged, its power will be sufficient for 3–4 attempts at jump starting the engine of the automobile with the discharged battery. After more attempts the “donor” battery may fail to start its own engine.

The jump start “recipient” should recharge the battery with a battery charger at the first opportunity, since in winter conditions the generator will be unable to fully charge the battery and the problem engine start may reoccur.

  1. After the engine starts, REFRAIN from switching on the heater and other power consumers at once. Let the engine and belt drives warm up first.

Prohibited Actions During Frosty Weather

If the car has frozen after staying outside for several days, do not try to start it with a tow, especially in case of an automatic transmission.

If the electrolyte in the battery has frozen, do not attempt to start the car using either jump start or towing. You may be able to start the engine, but your battery, which has already suffered from freezing, will be irreparably damaged. Try charging the battery only after full defrosting in a warm room, after the electrolyte temperature rises above 15°С.