Tips for starting the car "cold"

cold start car

Whether it is because we live in a particularly cold area or because we are going to take a trip to regions with a difficult climate, there are a series of cold start car tips that if taken into account can get us out of more than one jam.

In particular, to start the car from cold there is 5 key points that will allow us to face almost any circumstance without having to resort to a crane or public transport. Let's get to the point and leave the explanations for later, because who knows, maybe you are right now at -15ºC searching the Internet next to your car.

Explanatory video

5 keys to start the car cold

  1. Turn off all appliances Inside the car: Air conditioning, radio, wiper blades, etc.
  2. step on the clutch when you start
  3. Don't turn the key for more than 5 seconds at a time. and wait half a minute between each attempt.
  4. heat the battery: use several heated and dry cloths with an iron or the typical hot water bag (well sealed and resistant) to heat the battery. Important: all well dry.
  5. only for diesel: turn on the car electrical system 2-3 times for a few seconds. Turn the key only to the point just before starting the engine to turn on diesel heaters.

If none of this works, you can always resort to start the car by pushing or on a hill. Although we do not recommend the latter if the cold is accompanied by a lot of snow or ice. Remember that with the engine off you have one or two stops before the pedal hardens and stops working.

Start the car cold Tips

Turn off all appliances inside the car

In order not to subtract energy from the battery, it is recommended that nothing has been left on inside the car. There is no need to waste the available electricity since the car's battery will have to make an extra effort to start the car when cold.

The elements that use the most electricity are the lights, air conditioner, radio and brush motors wiper washer. Set the air controls to zero, remove the radio faceplate if it is removable, and make sure the wiper control is in the off position. Turn off both the lights outside and inside the car and make sure that other extras in the car are not activated that can subtract energy such as the seat heating.

Step on the clutch when you start

Many modern cars won't let you start if you don't have the clutch pedal depressed, but if this isn't the case with yours, don't forget to step on it anyway. When disengaging the transmission, the starter motor has to move less weight to move the engine. It is a good habit even if you are not at low temperatures, since the battery is saved and the starter motor wears less.

how to start car cold

Don't turn the key for more than 5 seconds at a time.

Since one of the key elements in these circumstances is the battery, it is not recommended to force it excessively. If it hasn't booted in 5 seconds, wait 20-30 seconds before trying again.

You may have seen how a car started with an attempt much longer than those 5 seconds, but it is better to divide that time into several times. The reason is that the battery delivers its maximum force in the first seconds and then it loses strength if it is maintained. Let it rest and it will return to 100% power after a few seconds.

heat the battery

This is the least widespread advice, but it is very useful when it's really cold. The only drawback is that you need to have on hand what is necessary to heat some cloths or water for a bag. If this is your case, use an iron for cloths or a saucepan or microwave to fill a hot water bottle. If you use the latter make sure it is well hermetic and avoids any sharp part that may have the battery. these bags They are usually very resistant. because they are designed to support the weight of a person lying on them. Nevertheless, If you are not sure about it, we advise against its use.. unless you do it with distilled or demineralized water, which are insulating.

There are also people who use other tricks like heating the battery and cables with a hair dryer. If you do, do not get it too close to the battery, leaving it about 15 cm will be enough. The only drawback of this system is that you have to have a plug nearby or an extension cord.

The battery is a key element to start the car cold

Any method you can think of to heat the battery can be good, as long as you keep in mind:

  • The battery or other parts of the engine compartment must not be wetted under any circumstances (except with distilled or demineralized water).
  • You can never bring a flame, incandescent or smoking material near the car.
  • The maximum temperature tolerated by the battery must not be exceeded.

Remember: If you use the cloths or the water bag, do not forget to remove them from the battery if you manage to start the engine. It is not going to be that with the emotion of getting it started you leave them there.

For Diesel only: turn on the heaters 2 or 3 times

Diesel engine heaters are essential to start in these circumstances. They are responsible for heating the air and the combustion chamber of the engine to facilitate starting. Something that becomes much more important when it is several degrees below zero.

If the diesel heaters of your car are not in good condition and the cold is very intense, starting the car can be very complicated. In the article about the faulty diesel heaters, we explain how you can know if you have them in poor condition in a simple way.

cold start car

How to start the car without diesel heaters

Starting a diesel car without the heaters working It is possible, at least under normal conditions. If it is not cold, they are not particularly necessary and the consequence may only be that starting is more difficult and with worse combustion.

Furthermore, modern diesel cars with common rail system, the pressure at which the fuel enters and the good atomization of the direct injection allow the car boot without problems, even without operating diesel heaters. So much so, that many are programmed to use heaters only when below a certain temperature. For example 5º C.

The problem comes when it is very cold, since without diesel heaters this operation can be very complicated. That's why, you should not get to that situation and anticipating the circumstances by leaving the car indoors. If it's too late for that advice, there are some suggestions that you can follow to be able to start a car without diesel heaters when it is very cold:

  • if you're not in a hurry, the simplest solution is to try bring the car inside and wait for it to heat up. Afterwards, it will not hurt to follow one of the 5 tips that we give you above to facilitate the start.
  • In emergency situations, there are people who follow the advice of warm up the battery, but with the entire engine compartment. Which requires many more hot elements placed in the opening and more work. You just have to have the same precautions as in the section «Heats the battery» from above. Once everything is in place, close the hood and cover the radiator grille so that the heat does not escape and wait. Then, remove everything you have put before starting the engine. Anyway, If the cold is very intense, no one guarantees that this method will work..

Start the car without diesel heaters

Tips for the day before

If you are not right now in the circumstance of having to start the car cold, but you see that you will have to do it tomorrow or later, here are some tips to make it easier for you when the time comes:

parking place

Even if you have to park on the street, it is very important to choose the right place. Try to place it in the most sheltered from the wind possible, because you will gain a few degrees. Note also that it helps a lot to put it back to the wind instead of nose.


Another way to gain a few degrees is to park under the Street lighting of a street or any other light source with a certain intensity. It may seem like a very slight improvement in circumstances, but with the thermometer in hand it is not so much.

Park in the right place to start the car cold


One of the causes that can most easily prevent us from starting the car cold is not having the car with a good maintenance. If you are going to move through areas with very harsh climates good maintenance is even more important. Make sure you don't have clogged air and fuel filters, good heaters, or other items that can make starting difficult. If your car passes regular inspections, there should be nothing wrong with it.

The battery at home

If you know how to remove it and you know that the car is going to be in extremely low temperatures all night, a good solution is to store the battery at home. In this way, instead of having to heat it with the cloths the next day, it will already be at a good temperature to work at 100%. do this trick if you know well how to remove and replace the battery well without causing trouble to your car.

Taking the battery out is a good idea so it doesn't get so cold at night. This will make it easier for you to start cold in the morning.

Well-charged battery for cold starting

Having a fully charged battery is also one of the most important tips if you are going to have to start your car cold. You can do it with normal use of the car, which implies a minimum of 45 minutes circulating around 2.500 rpm to make sure. But you can also use battery chargers if you can't move the vehicle.

Tips for once you start the car

You have already achieved it and you can rest easy. Don't get too confident though, because driving in severe cold requires some extra knowledge to keep you safe. For example, check tire pressure so that they are adapted to low temperatures.

You should also bear in mind that conventional wheels they will not grip as well at low temperatures. Take a look at the article about types of tires. And even if you wear one, be careful on slippery terrain like snow or ice sheets. In the following video you can see the tips to do it in these circumstances:

Picture 6 – Katie Taylor

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  1.   Nacho Moreno said

    Good! The truth is that what is happening to my car I don't know if it is a problem with the ignition or what, but it happens both in winter and in summer.
    The problem is the following.

    I start the car for the first time that day. As it is cold, the rev needle is higher than normal and fixed (this is normal in any car). the revolutions are not fixed, it is as if you were accelerating the car and so on, the revolution needle (when the car is cold and above its normal revolutions) is going up and down all the time and so on until the car reaches temperature and the needle of the revolutions is fixed where it should be with temperature already taken.

    It is a Renault Megane Coupé from 1999, petrol 1.4 16V
    Let's see if someone can guide me….because the truth is I don't know what this problem could be due to.

    Thank you for your attention

    1.    Screeching said

      I don't know if that engine still had a carburetor, although I'd be surprised...

      Idle speed may not be adjusted correctly. Does it jerk when accelerating? In that case, it could also be due to dirt in the fuel filter.

  2.   LUIS said


  3.   Dionisio Aparicio Cervantes said

    I appreciate all the information for the good treatment of the battery, especially the clutch, although I practice all of them, but I would add others, such as:
    – Leave, if possible, the car downhill, let it fall due to its inertia, put the second gear and that's it.
    – If the car locks up somewhere, take a cheap charger, plug it in and . . . .
    – I also use a 12 V battery but more amps and I notice it when starting in winter.
    – Carry an auxiliary starter in the trunk, which, when plugged into the battery, helps starting, apart from having a very strong light point and a low-loss tire inflator for punctures. He gives three very good services and is worth less than €100, and if there are better ones, the better.