This is a difficult problem to solve and detect because it only happens in minus double digit Centigrade cold weather. I am the original owner of this vehicle, it has been well maintained with oil changes, tune ups, etc. every six months. So there are no old fluids, leaking, or any other issues due to poor maintenance. The battery was just tested and it's OK, the starter was replaced a few years ago - but since this is only a severe cold weather issue I'm told it's not the starter. This is a fuel injection vehicle so there is no carburetor.

Here are the symptoms - on very cold days when the car has been sitting over night it will often - but not always (making it more difficult to figure out) do one of the following:

1) Turning the key in the ignition will turn on the battery, you can hear the electric hum (radio and heater working etc.) but nothing will happen - not even the start of an initial crank. There is no clicking.

2) On an initial key turn the motor will crank at normal speed but not start. Once the key is turned back to the off position and then back on nothing will happen as with the first description.

What's even stranger is that after failing to start the car, if I then leave it to sit for anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour and retry it will eventually start normally - immediately upon turning the key.

So logically it sounds like something is freezing. Except that the non-start should not unfreeze whatever it is an hour later. Nothing has warmed up, nothing has happened. This used to be an intermittent problem but over the years it's happened more often. One mechanic suggested bad gas, but I only use high octane and it happens over a period of too many fill ups to be related to one gas station (I don't always go to the same one), or one bad fill up.

Unfortunately the few shops I've tried to take it to tell me that they can't determine what is wrong unless I leave it so they can experience it, which is going to be very difficult since it's intermittent. They might even get to a point of trying to diagnose the problem when it won't start, only to have it suddenly go on the next attempt.

Could it be related to the fuel injection? Does anyone have any ideas?

Thanks Charles

  • Welcome to Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair! Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 19:04
  • If you have a multimeter pull the trim off behind the steering wheel so you can gain access to the ignition switch. Next time you get the no crank condition measure output from the ignition switch. For the crank no start you could gain access to the ecm connectors and check for injector pulse etc...
    – Ben
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 20:28
  • Interesting. This looks like a real possibility. I'll draw my mechanic's attention to this.
    – Charles
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 20:45

1 Answer 1


Case 1: I've heard that in extreme cold temperatures, metal in electrical connections can contract enough to actually prevent a vehicle from starting, whether it be the battery, distributor, alternator wiring, etc. Extreme cold can also have a detrimental effect on battery crank power, which could keep it from cranking even though the accessories work. Either of these could certainly be the cause here, but isolating where the fault is could be a serious pain. At minimum, give your battery contacts a good cleaning and make sure they are plenty tight.

Case 2: Sounds a lot like case 1, except the battery has enough juice for "one last hurrah", and then it can't turn the engine over again.

There's also a ton of other things that could be factors here. At that temp you could have issues with coolant freezing, or the block simply may not be warm enough for combustion to occur. If this is your regular climate, you may consider a block heater that you can plug into house power and will keep the engine warm overnight or when not in use.

  • Case 1 is surprisingly common...In computers and vehicles. I often take care to ensure the correct room and running temp of my old computers for this reason. In cars, probably easier to find the problem with loose connections, old connectors etc
    – Grantly
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 18:59
  • Could be Case 1. Definitely not the battery, the battery has way more juice than needed for one last hurrah. Once it connects there is plenty of juice for extended cranking at top speed more than once if needed. My regular climate includes several weeks of below zero double digit centigrade temperatures - but we're past that this year. I might have to wait until next winter to solve this. Thanks for the suggestions. I'm leaning towards a wiring corrosion or something similar.
    – Charles
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 20:44
  • It actually turned out to be the ignition switch. My dealer recommended replacing it and that did the trick.
    – Charles
    Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 22:27

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