At What Temperature Does Gasoline Freeze?
As the weather grows colder, drivers have to worry about everything from roads to radiators freezing. Polar vortexes can cause days of chill so cold they inspire people to wonder "can gasoline freeze?" Whether you live in someplace with harsh winters or are just visiting, you want to know what you can expect from Jack Frost. Understanding the temperature at which gasoline becomes useless can be vital for surviving extreme conditions. Learning how to handle your vehicle's maintenance can be the difference between making it to your destination and shivering in a stalled car.
How Low Can It Go?
Everybody’s first question is “what temperature does gasoline freeze?” In truth, gas doesn’t completely freeze like water does. In order to go from liquid to solid, the material needs the right type of molecules to arrange themselves in a new, orderly shape. The hydrocarbons in gasoline will slow down and harden, but they don’t form a new state of matter.
At what point will the fuel fully harden? This depends on the type gasoline and its components. Different elements of the fuel are made from unique molecules, which will become more solid at different times. You could probably give it a range of about -40 and -200 degrees Fahrenheit, with most of it freezing at -100 degrees.
The good news is that this should only be a problem if you’re planning a winter vacation in Antarctica. In that case, you have plenty of other things to worry about. Many other parts of your car would fail first and any exposed skin would instantly be frozen.
What Problems Does Cold Weather Cause for Gas?
While having gasoline-flavored ice cubes shouldn’t be an issue for you, there are other difficulties that can arise. Colder liquids become more viscous, which is why cold pancake syrup flows more slowly than hot syrup. This is a bigger problem with oil than gas (which is why cold-weather oils are sold) but thicker gas does force your fuel pump to work harder, shortening its lifespan.
Diesel freezes at a much higher temperature, which is why more anti-freezing agents are available for it and truck drivers often leave engines idling on frigid days. At cold enough temperatures, gas can separate and gel just like diesel. The more exposed to the cold the liquid is – think the fuel lines versus the fuel tank – the more likely this is to happen. Also, be aware that some fuel gauges can be tricked into showing more gas than you actually have because of the increased viscosity.
Any water, even vapor or condensation, can turn to ice in your fuel system. This can cause your fuel line to be blocked, preventing adequate gas from getting to your combustion chambers.
What Are the Signs of a Frozen Fuel Line?
A completely blocked line is practically impossible between the low amount of water in your system and the gas itself. The alcohol in the fuel absorbs the water to minimize these problems. If your fuel line is partially frozen, you may notice a few of these symptoms:
- Your car sputters or cuts out while you’re driving
- The engine doesn’t start at all
- While your engine starts, it doesn’t fully turn over
Typically, the only way to get your vehicle running is to persevere with the ignition process or get it someplace warmer. There are some steps you can take to stop these issues before they start.
How Do You Prevent Cold-Weather Problems?
Thanks to modern technology, you’re unlikely to have the winter blues even if you do live in a frigid climate. Gas sold in the colder parts of the world generally has additives included to discourage gelling. This not only protects customers, it prevents problems at the pump. There are a few things you can do to make life easier for you and your machine:
- Warm your vehicle up before using it. Simply start your engine and let it idle for several minutes. This allows your fuel and engine to heat up before you drive. It also lessens the chances of stalling, sputtering, and other difficulties.
- Run your car or truck often to prevent gas from staying in your tank for too long. Even a trip around the block can get your fuel flowing. Just ensure you don’t run your engine with a snow-blocked tailpipe or in an enclosed area such as a garage. This can cause you to be exposed to deadly amounts of carbon monoxide.
- Keep your fuel tank above one-quarter full, preferably over halfway. Smaller amounts of liquid are more affected by cold than larger amounts. This also prevents you from getting stranded somewhere if you have less gas than your meter shows.
- Add a stabilizer to your gas tank to keep the fuel from coagulating. Ideally, you should do this before filling up to mix the two liquids more evenly.
How Do You Store Gasoline?
If you’re holding onto fuel for a snowblower, you may be wondering what to do about gas cans and storage. Because canisters tend to hold no more than a few gallons, they tend to have problems faster than larger capacity fuel tanks. Unless your garage or shed has heating, it’s not much shelter from the chilly temperatures outside. Obviously, you don’t want to store gas in your house even though it’s warm inside. There’s a host of reasons. Number one: the fumes can ignite, causing the fuel to catch on fire.
Instead, choose a fuel stabilizer to add to your cans as mentioned above. This keeps the gas from separating into unusable components. It may also keep your fuel from going stale, which is another storage difficulty.
There are plenty of winterizing issues you should be concerned about over your gas freezing. Don’t forget to keep a decent amount of gasoline in your tank to minimize problems and ensure you can get around in case of a sudden fuel shortage. Use fuel additives and good maintenance habits to keep most gas issues at bay. Stabilizers and vehicle care are cheap solutions that prevent expensive problems. Shop with AutoZone for convenient service on products to help you get through the winter months.