How to Repair a Frozen Gas Line
It’s that time of the year when almost everywhere in the northern hemisphere is chilly. Not many people are complaining though, since a white Christmas is always welcome. However, with all that cold comes ‘ice’ and the tendency for things to get frozen that shouldn’t be.
Especially for drivers, ice can be at best a nuisance and at worst incredibly dangerous. Winter isn’t a great time for driving. The roads are slippery, cars without snow tires have reduced traction on the roads, and fuel lines can get frozen.
Today, we’ll be discussing frozen fuel lines – a big nuisance for winter driving.
A frozen fuel line happens when water vapor contained in the fuel line blends with whatever fuel is in the line at the time and freezes due to cold temperatures. This prevents fuel from getting to the combustion chamber and the engine is unable to run.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that fuel itself gets frozen into ice crystals, it’s more of the water inside it that becomes frozen.
In case you have any repair needs in New York, our auto repair experts in Long Island NY are happy to assist you.
How does water get into the fuel line?
That’s a good question. There are several ways water can get into your gas tank including
At what temperature does gasoline freeze?
Gasoline is a mixture of several elements that all have different freezing points, therefore, it’s difficult to pinpoint one particular temperature as its freezing point. However, temperatures between -40oC and – 200oC will usually cause fuel to freeze.
It doesn’t matter much if the gasoline does not become one solid frozen mass, as long as it gets to around that temperature range, the various elements will start to freeze. This eventually results in a thicker liquid that will not flow as well as fuel should.
How to tell if the gas line is frozen
As easy as opening your gas tank and seeing if it’s frozen? Not quite. There are some symptoms of a frozen gas line that you should know so you can easily diagnose the problem.
This involves issues with turning over and starting the engine, such as
This usually implies that the lines are frozen solid and there’s no fuel getting to the engine to start the car.
Here, the gas lines are not completely frozen so a little fuel gets to the engine but not enough to start it.
In this case, the line is so cold that ice begins to form in the lines but it’s still liquid fuel mostly. The engine might start but will eventually sputter.
Also, remember that thick liquid that forms when various gasoline elements freeze? This could harden and clog the fuel filter. Failure to get it out could lead to the sputtering of the engine.
This is the most dangerous symptom of a frozen gas line as it can cause a car to stop abruptly. This occurs when those icy buildups in the line prevent enough gas to reach the engine, so it starts but eventually stops…possibly in the middle of the road.
Effects of cold on a low gas tank
We’re discussing this because it’s a rather common question automobile drivers have. They are quick to wonder if having no fuel in the tank increases the likelihood of the gas freezing. Well, does it?
A low gas tank will certainly be affected by extremely cold temperatures. First, a little gasoline in the tank could break into the various elements that make it up. These elements separate and the heavier molecules become “gelled”.
Also, having that much space in a gas tank means there’s more space for water vapor to collect and eventually condense. You already know what water does to gasoline when temperatures drop – frozen fuel lines! Besides, it’s a known fact that leaving your tank below ½ full could shorten the fuel pump life.
Now that you’ve gotten all that information, you’re probably ready to learn how to handle this issue. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Here's how to fix a frozen gas line
Bring the car into a warm location like a garage and try to warm it up. Do this for about an hour or two till the gas line thaws.
However, if you do not have a garage, don’t despair yet. You could try the blanket trick. Cover the engine hood with a thick blanket and hang a drop light on it. The heat from the light and the blanket should get the fuel moving again.
Whichever method you use, once you get the engine fired up, keep it running for a while. It’ll probably sputter, just rev the engine and keep going.
You could also use fuel additives to unfreeze your gas line. The gas line antifreeze works by absorbing water from the tank after sinking to the bottom of the tank. Its alcohol (usually isopropanol or methanol) content helps it achieve this.
However, if you use gasoline that already contains alcohol such as ethanol, this might not be necessary. Although you would have to keep the tank above ¼ before this ethanol will make a significant difference.
Preventing your gas lines from getting frozen
What is it they say about prevention being better than cure? This rings true here…on all levels. Imagine how dangerous it would be if your gas line was frozen and your car stops abruptly in traffic.
To prevent such an incident from occurring, here's what you can do:
Other than helping to thaw a frozen gas line, this can also be used to prevent the gas line from freezing in the first place. Also, try to keep your gas tank full to prevent it from getting frozen.
Ultimately, a frozen fuel line is not fun or practical for a car owner. Do what you can to prevent water from getting into your fuel line in the first place. Other than causing gasoline to ‘freeze’, it could also affect the engine, reduce fuel economy, and cause the gas tank to rust.
If you run into further problems or you’re unable to thaw your fuel line or get it started, then it’s time to get your auto repair expert involved.
This will help you warm your car often so it doesn’t get frozen. But if it does get frozen, you’d have to try starting the engine – a fully charged battery will come in handy here.
Again, a garage works great for this. It’s much warmer than the outside and you could enhance the effectiveness by turning up the heat in the garage.
This is commonly used in places with extremely cold temperatures. It’s a little electric heater you can place in your car engine to keep it and its components warm.