How to Thaw Frozen Fuel Linesby Robert Dupea
Odds are pretty good that you have never in your life seen frozen gasoline. Gasoline is a mixture of a lot of different substances, including petroleum. Like petroleum wax, gasoline can get very thick and hard, but it almost never changes phases and "freezes" into ice crystals. Water, on the other hand, does, and water vapor does it even faster. It's the water and water vapor in your fuel lines that freeze, particularly when you've let the vehicle sit with an empty tank.
Bring the vehicle to a warm garage. Heat and sustained warmth is the simplest solution, so getting the vehicle into a warm, dry garage is obviously the preferred method. After a few hours, try starting it again. In all likelihood, the engine will fire right up.
Decide whether you can warm the engine on-site. This bears some consideration for several reasons. One, you must have a rough idea of where the fuel lines are in your vehicle. Two, you have to have electric heaters or a propane- or kerosene-fueled heater available. Three, you need time to thaw the lines, and if it's cold you may not have time to wait around.
Place a heat source under the vehicle and under the hood of the vehicle, if you have the means to do so safely and effectively. Remember, it's not the fuel you're thawing, but the water and additives in the fuel. This method may take longer than a warm garage, because if you're out in the elements, you're fighting to warm the lines while Mother Nature is fighting back to cool them down. To keep the cold air from undoing your hard work, you might consider wrapping or covering the lines with rags or towels after you heat each section.
Add two or three gallons of gasoline to the vehicle. If you are not positive you are dealing with frozen fuel lines and you notice that your fuel tank is empty or near empty, trying adding a gallon or two of fuel to that thirsty tank. When a gasoline tank is near empty, the fuel it contains and the elements within that fuel are more susceptible to cold air. Adding some fuel to the tank can thwart the effects of this. And, of course, once the engine is running, it will keep itself warm.
Add a fuel antifreeze treatment to the tank. It will absorb the water. Auto parts stores carry these fuel additives by several brand names. Add two or three bottles and give it a couple of hours to work.
Turn your key to the "on" position and listen for the fuel pump. With the key on and the pump running, get out and rock your car's body back and forth by pushing on the side. This will help the antifreeze to mix in with your fuel, if it hasn't already. If you don't have the ability to heat the lines, just turn the key on for 10 seconds and off for 30 seconds. Give the de-icing agent time to do its thing. Repeat this cycle until you can start the engine.
- If you continue to face issues related to cold temperatures and your fuel lines, look into purchasing a fuel line heater. There are several available on the market.
- It's unwise to use any alcohol-based compound in boats or vehicles with a fiberglass fuel tank -- a fact which many boat and older-model Corvette owners have discovered the hard way. Alcohol has a nasty habit of dissolving fiberglass resin, and that could end very badly if you find out about your weakened resin five miles from shore and 50 feet from the nearest shark.