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Car won't start in cold weather

The title pretty much sums it up. I have a 2000 dodge caravan with an engine that usually runs great. It’s been very cold recently (-30 F last night, -15 when I tried to start it today) and the car wouldn’t start. The gas tank is at about 1/4 tank. It sounds like it is turning over and then after a couple times it sounds like it almost started, but shakes quite a bit and then starts to try to turn over again. My question is, would this be solely because of the cold weather and will correct itself when it gets warmer? Or is it possible that it is my battery. The accessories turn on and the battery isn’t visibly cracked.

On a seperate note, my Girlfriends car made a series of repetitive beeps when I started it. 3 beeps, 4 beeps, 1 beep was the pattern. It’s a 2000 chevy malibu.

Thank you for taking your time to answer!

If it’s turning over at a close-to-normal speed, the battery is OK. But a few attempts at starting can take a lot of the battery’s charge away. If you can hook up a battery charger, be ready to do so if this doesn’t work:

Turn the key to On (not all the way to start). After a few seconds turn it to Off, then back to On for a few seconds. Repeat this cycle. The fuel pump will run a few seconds then turn off each time you have turned it to On. That will bring fuel and fuel pressure back up to what’s needed. Then turn to Start. This time it may turn over a few times and then start running. If it doesn’t turn over rapidly, it’s probably time for a battery charger, or hook up jumper cables and let it charge from an idling donor car for 10-20 minutes before trying the key dance again.

Best of luck!

Oh please! On, off, on, off. Where did you get this?

Turn the key to ON, wait 5 seconds, then turn to START. That’s all you need to do.

If the fuel pump can’t pressurize the system within five (5) seconds it’s shot, and needs to be replaced.

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If the engine keeps turning over the battery is fine. I’d wonder about frozen fuel lines at these temperatures.

When it’s this cold (-30, Yikes!) everything has to be perfect. The least little thing will keep your engine from starting. Fuel filter? When was it changed? Fuel tank? Full is better, because it minimizes condensation. You said your tank was only 1/4 full. Not good.

When was the last spark plug replacement? Oil change? There’s also the possibility of a failing coolant temperature sensor, and several other things. Modern cars need correct signals from a multitude of sensors in order to start and run correctly. It’s possible that a simple thing is keeping your truck from starting.

My guess is your truck will start when the temperature returns to normal, but you still need to figure out why it won’t start in severe temperatures. It should.

But that will tell him if the fuel system is at fault or not.

Your girlfriend’s beeping may be related to the airbag light being burned out. Does it come on when you turn on the ignition?

As for your problem, try this: try to start the van as you normally would. After a couple of tries, if it doesn’t light off, try holding your foot to the floor as you crank. I’m thinking that it might be so cold that the engine computer is flooding out the engine, and holding your foot to the floor while cranking tells it that you are trying to clear the flooded condition. When / if the car starts, take your foot off of the throttle and see if it will run normally.

Worth a shot.

This on-off on-off technique has worked for me a few times on my 99 Honda Civic, especially if the fuel level in the tank is low and the temperature is cold. I am not sure what causes the crank-not-start problem. I can hear the pump run for a couple seconds each time the key is turned to Run. Once the pump has done this 2-3 times, the engine starts and runs normally.

I think the fuel pump is OK because I never have fuel starvation symptoms once the car is running. My hypothesis is that fuel bleeds out of the pressurized fuel system, maybe due to a faulty check valve on the supply side, or a leaking fuel pressure regulator or maybe even a leaking injector. I don’t smell gasoline, so I do not think there is is an external leak. I have replaced the fuel filter at recommended intervals. The car’s engine runs well.

I can’t agree with your assessment that the fuel pump is shot and needs to be replaced, because there are many other factors involved in the fuel system, and no evidence of fuel pump failure.

How long has it been since the van’s had a basic tune up?

Give it a shot of starting fluid (don’t get carried away)

Your description sounds exactly like what my Jeep was doing the past few days when it wouldn’t start. There were so many times it shook and sounded like it would start then would just continue turning over.

I finally had it towed in to see what was happening. Apparently the idle air control motor or valve (can’t recall which) is no longer working. As I kept trying to start the car, it was completely flooded out- fuel in the spark plugs, oil, etc.

It may not be the diagnosis for your car but I thought I’d share. Hope you got it started.

I don’t think it’s as much as a problem with your car as it is the weather. It’s just cold. Nothing works as well. All the metal contracts, the oil is cold and like tar, and I don’t even think electricity travels as well.

-30? Do you live in Alaska?

If it’s that cold where you live, put an in-line heater. My father was a mechanic and was always leary of the magnetic block heaters. An in-line heater fits in the cooling system and slowly warms your antifreeze. We just live in the midwest and put them on our vehicles just in case. We’ve never had a problem starting them after they’ve been plugged in and many of our vehicles had tweaked out high performance engines with gobs of compression that would have had the same problem as you experienced.

nd I don’t even think electricity travels as well

Actually electricity flows BETTER at colder temps.

the oil is cold and like tar

Depends on the oil and weight. 0 or 5w oil is NOT tar at these temps…maybe 10w is.

a few years back it was real cold, my Lincoln turned, over but did not start. i sprayed inside the chamber with starting fluid — no luck. called the tow truck --just by luck , he was a friend of mine. he got inside the my vehicle pressed the gas pedal, to the floor held it there and it started up. i did not know you can do that? i was always told not to get near the gas pedal, just turn the key? but it worked don"t know if it will word for you??? good luck

If the engine is flooded, holding the pedal down (the throttle plate open) while you crank will pull a lot of air through the cylinders and remove the excess gas. When the mixture is close to right and the spark plugs are no longer too wet to fire, the engine will start.

Sorry but at 15 to 30 below, the engine will not be cranking at a normal speed, period. It will barely turn over with a good battery. At that temp you need to have good spark as in good plugs, and a good fuel mixture. Sounds like you were lacking in one or the other.

Yes the cold alone would prevent it from starting but at this point you may need to charge the battery up again and hope that you didn’t flood it by the starting attempt. So charge the battery, wait for warmer weather, and give it a try.

I have a 97 Jetta, and this EXACT same thing happens to me, ONLY when it it is cold and damp out. At times, if I persistently try to get it started, it will finally turn over after 5-10 minutes of periodically turning the ignition…though sometimes it won’t start at all. Once it is running, the problem won’t return during the same day. I have had a recent oil change, new battery, and live in SF California where the temperatures never get below freezing. Have you found a solution to the problem? I don’t know much about auto engines, but my instinct is that the fuel isn’t getting through/ignited? Help!?

About the beeps, we have a 93 Nissan Sentra that the seatbelt light comes on and beeps 4 times and stops. It does this periodically even tho the belt is fastened. I think it is a short in the electrical system, as we have other problems with electrical stuff. In your case, it may be just in that one thing.