As cars get older, it is normal for them to have a harder start when cold, especially during winter. This can be due to many causes, several of which are easy to fix.

Have you ever tried to start your car on a cold winter morning and it took longer than usual to start the engine? Or, even, has it not been possible to do it? This has happened to almost all of us drivers because as our vehicles age, this is one of the most common problems.

Why does my car have a hard time starting or does not start the first time?

The causes of this difficulty in starting with a cold engine can be varied, although some are more common than others.


The cold affects the battery a lot and, in addition, it is used more in winter for heating, lights, etc. Therefore, if they are not in good condition, it is very likely that the car will have a hard time starting or will not be able to do so. Not surprisingly, the battery is in charge of supplying electricity to the starter motor .

Keep in mind that batteries usually last at least four years , although this will largely depend on the use of the vehicle. Normally, the battery begins to show signs of fatigue before completely ‘dying’, but the best thing you can do is check its condition with a multimeter (you have several models for less than 20 euros).

The battery is usually the main cause of a car not starting. Check their condition periodically from the age of three.

To give you an idea, the battery voltage should not be less than 12.2 volts , a figure from which the car will begin to have problems starting. In this case, the battery must be replaced with a new one.

Starter motor

Especially with the new Start & Stop systems, the starter motor suffers much more as a result of the multiple starting operations it has to deal with. If when you turn the key you only hear a clicking noise and it’s not a battery problem (lights etc work perfectly), then the starter motor is almost certainly broken.

Generally, the starter motor brushes are the first thing to fail and they usually last about 150,000 kilometers . It may also happen that the crown has worn, making it impossible to engage with the flywheel to rotate the crankshaft.

In all these cases, it is best to replace the starter with a new one, which usually costs around 200 euros.


A third option that can explain why the car won’t start is that the alternator is faulty. This is responsible for transforming mechanical energy into electricity so that it can be stored in the battery.

Therefore, if the battery is in good condition but does not charge , it is because the alternator is not doing its job. It can also happen that the alternator belt is damaged, preventing its correct operation.

An alternator usually lasts about 300,000 kilometers and changing it costs approximately 500 euros. If it is only the strap, the cost is much lower.

Spark plugs or glow plugs

Another very common cause that makes it difficult or prevents the car from starting is a failure in the spark plugs of gasoline-powered cars or the glow plugs in diesel-powered cars.

Spark plugs are responsible for providing the spark that ignites the air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. On the other hand, heaters, glow plugs or glow plugs are responsible for heating the air present in the combustion chamber so that autoignition occurs.

The spark plugs end up wearing out and make it difficult for cars with a gasoline engine to start.

In this second case, before turning the key completely to start the engine, you must do it partially and wait for the glow plug light located on the control panel to go off. When it does, then you can start the engine.

In winter, this warning light may take a long time to go off or this operation may have to be done more than once to start the engine, which in itself indicates that there may be a problem with the glow plugs. Also, if you see gray or white smoke coming out of the exhaust , suspect their poor condition.

A glow plug is usually around 30 euros, while a spark plug is usually even cheaper.

Timing belt

This is possibly the worst option that can happen to you. If the timing chain or belt has broken, then the least of the problems will be not being able to start the car. It is very likely that you will have to change the motor completely , since it will have suffered a lot of damage if this has happened while moving.

Never rush to change the timing belt and be clear when you should change it to avoid major problems and a very high financial outlay

Other problems that make it difficult to start the car

In addition to the mechanical problems that we have already seen, others can arise that make it impossible to start the car, whether in winter or in summer.

The first one is obvious and if it happens to us it will make us feel very stupid: the car has no fuel and, therefore, it is impossible for the engine to start. It may happen that the fuel gauge on the control panel has been damaged.

If you are in the habit of rushing the fuel tank reserve, it may also happen that its impurities have passed into the feeding system, clogging it, affecting the fuel filter or even the fuel pump . Whether it is for this or for another reason, a problem in any of these elements will not allow the car to start properly.

Nor is there a problem with the immobilizer . Modern cars today include an electronic ignition starter that must be activated with the key, which includes an electronic chip.

If the transmission with the immobilizer is not correct, the engine will not start. In fact, he won’t even try. This could be due to the battery or because the synchronization between the key and the control unit has been lost . In the latter case, a specialized or official workshop must do it again.

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