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Do slow cranks "just happen" in the winter?

I’m in Michigan with a 2009 Honda civic. It’s been cold lately, but we’ve stayed in the positive temps, so not as cold as the last few years.
In the last two weeks I’ve had a slow turnover/crank about three times. The last two times occured within 24 hours - when I was leaving from work last night, and again heading to work this morning. Considering I
driven around for about 45 minutes to make sure the battery was charged - if it could be- last night, this worried me.
I took it into my shop this morning to have it checked. I mentioned I was worried about the battery but considering I’d only had the battery for about a year, was worried it might be the starter.
I was told they’d done two battery tests and both were good and everything was fine. I asked again about the starter and they said they’d done the two battery tests and some cars “just start slow in the winter”.
…that sounded a little weird to me. I’ve never before had a problem with turnover/starting when something else wasn’t also going wrong.
So is there any opinion on this? Should I just accept that some days it might take a few extra seconds to start? I’m a bit worried they didn’t even test the starter…but I asked and they said “everything” was fine. Would it be worth pressing?

If you want a shop to check for slow cranking after sitting overnight you will have to leave the vehicle overnight, possibly a few days. They are testing the battery in the condition that you are bringing it to them in, it may not test as failing in the vehicle after driving for 30 minutes.

My mechanic is about 5-10 minutes away - which I’ve heard is not really sufficient to charge a battery (especially if it’s close to dead). I had a similar problem* roughly a year ago and they had no problems diagnosing that bad battery after I drove it in.
*the difference is this time the slow crank lasts the same amount of time each time and my driving doesn’t influence it. When the battery was dying I noticed the time to crank gradually increased, and could also be reduced by extra driving.

Clean the battery clamps, check cables (especially to the starter) for corrosion.
That means taking off the clamp/connector and making sure the mating surfaces are shiny.

@kaitzi You have not told us what weight of oil is in your crankcase. Slow starting in cold weather is caused by increased friction due to the oil being thicker in cold weather.

If you have a 0W20 or 5W20 synthetic oil in your crankcase, the slow starting would be mostly due to the electrical system.

My Toyota starts considerably slower in very cold weather, no big surprise. Where I live most cars have engine block heaters for that reason. It allows easy starts and we get an extra year or two out of the battery.

It could be something new going on draining the battery a bit. The drain can be measured to see if it is within norms. Is it worse the longer it sits?

Fellow Michigander here! My 04 Ford Escape has been having the same problem. One of the things that I have found helps for a slow crank on a bitter cold day is to pop the headlights on for 10 seconds before starting it up. Since I have started doing that, I have had much better luck with cold starts on cold mornings. If your battery is old, it might not be a bad idea to take it in and have it checked out.

“If you have a 0W20 or 5W20 synthetic oil in your crankcase, the slow starting would be mostly due to the electrical system.”

Make Sure You Use Synthetic Oil! I started our 01 Impala (close to 300,000 miles, but has an 800 CCA battery) this morning on the driveway just before sunrise and it was -24F (actual temperature, not some goofy wind chill) and it cranked only slightly slower and fired right up. As I’ve said before, My GM manuals for my 3.8L cars (I have 3) specify conventional 5w30 EXCEPT for temperatures below -20F and then they specific 5w30 SYTHETIC!

Why? Because it is fact that synthetic oil flows better in cold temperatures. I use Mobil-1 EP 5w30 synthetic in all my GM cars and they thank me for it.

If you are using synthetic and your car cranks a little slower that could be normal, quite a bit slower is not, as @Docnick pointed out

As long as the car starts every time (even if it takes an extra second or two), there’s absolutely nothing to worry about, especially if your mechanic has tested the battery and says it’s OK. A lot of cars just tend to crank slower in the winter because the cold temperatures weaken the battery and because the oil’s a little thicker at cold temperatures, making the engine harder to turn over. It’s 100% normal, and nothing to worry about. Just check the owner’s manual to make sure that you’re using the correct weight of oil (this is something you can discuss with your mechanic or whoever it is who does your oil changes). The key is to make sure you’re using whichever oil Honda specifies for your car. If Honda doesn’t require synthetic oil, you’re fine sticking with conventional. Honda is known for making extremely durable, reliable engines, so just follow their specifications on oil and oil changes and you should be fine.

“One of the things that I have found helps for a slow crank on a bitter cold day is to pop the headlights on for 10 seconds before starting it up. Since I have started doing that, I have had much better luck with cold starts on cold mornings.”

I’m not sure I understand the logic behind this. If anything, this is only going to drain the battery unnecessarily, using energy that could be put to better use operating the starter.

The theory is that the current flow will warm up the battery a bit for more starting power.
The truth is that all it does is drain a bit of power from the battery.
I don’t recommend it. But if Margarets Dad feels it helps, it’s harmless. A good battery will tolerate it except in the worst of extreme temperatures.

Actually Margarets Dad is making light of another post made by someone who can’t solve their own problems .

Slow crank in the winter is usually caused by a weak battery. Have it checked.

He already had the battery tested. They said they used two tests? Didn’t say though if one was a load test and the other was the conductance test or not though. It also wasn’t clear to me if it was slow cranking and how much or slow starting. Of course I had Walmart tell me my one year old battery was good too after charging it for 24 hours and wouldn’t even turn the starter.

This one is easy.

You hook a conductance battery tester to the battery, and test the CCA.

It’ll either pass or fail.


The battery load test , it can be done accurately as Tester describes above or other ways, that is the first thing to do. I presume that’s already been done by the shop though, so doing it again won’t move the ball down the diagnostic field much.

Somewhat slower cranking is to be expected in cold weather since the battery is a chemical device and isn’t able to produce quite as much power in cold weather as warm weather. And the engine parts are cold and the oil is cold, that all adds friction, which could slow the cranking rpm somewhat. It depends I guess on exactly how slow the cranking is. Nevada’s idea to leave the car at the shop so they can test it over the course of a few days makes a lot of sense.

And it depends on the vehicle. My Corolla here in Calif seems like it cranks a little slower in cold weather, but my Ford truck, as long as the battery is charged fully, the temperature has very little effect on the cranking rpm. That was the case even when I lived in chilly Colorado, with sub-zero morning temperatures.

Slow cranking can be caused by a variety of problems

  • Battery
  • Battery connections
  • Ground connections
  • Starter solenoid (usually part of the starter)
  • Starter armature
  • Those spring-loaded carbon things in the starter … lol … forget they’re name
  • Ignition switch
  • Fuses
  • Various relays in the starter circuit
  • etc, etc …

The only way to know is a complete diagnostic of the starting system, and that begins with a voltage test at the starter motor during attempted cranking.

Not to argue but as the video showed, you can have good voltage, and a load test shows ok, but the conductance test can reveal a tired battery. The only problem with CCA is that if the battery is warmer than zero, you can get a higher CCA reading. I bought one of those testers and everything is good except my lawn mower is getting weak.


On the higher end conductance battery testers, if you enter the temperature of the battery using an infrared thermal gun into the tester, it’ll make a correction so it can calculate the CCA of the battery.


I’ve only got five batteries so the cheapie is fine for me to take most of the guess work out of it. In the past its just been age and listening to the starter so this is a huge improvement without going to a shop.

Seems to me always the best thing may be a block heater but once I left the heater off and mine started (not without complaint) in -15. I do get worried though and take mine for winter drives that have no purpose other than ensuring I feel good that the battery is charged up. Best bet in your situation with those temps is leave it be. Make sure you have an option like a portable jumpstarter just in case and use that synthetic if you can. But usually it’s our own paranoia that gets the best of us, not the car.