Gasoline is a fuel that is used to power vehicles, both recreational and commercial. However, gasoline is a liquid just like water, which means it can freeze when the temperature dips low enough. Therefore, it is essential that you learn how to keep gasoline from freezing, when it typically freezes, and how to avoid certain mechanical issues because of frozen fuel.
While you probably don’t care about the chemical properties of gasoline, it’s essential to know what it is made of so that you’re more aware of how and when it can freeze. Gasoline isn’t a plain substance and isn’t pure. It’s a mixture of multiple hydrocarbons and many additives. Common ones include hexane, octane, heptane, toluene, and ethanol. Sometimes, it can also be made up of butane or pentane, depending on the climate in which you purchase it. The chemicals mentioned here have isomers, which all have various melting points and freezing points.
When Does Gasoline Freeze?
Because gasoline is a mixture of many chemicals and liquids, there is no specific temperature at which it can freeze. It doesn’t technically have a freezing point but rather a freezing range.
When the temperature is lowered, the gasoline changes gradually. Of course, the tiny bits of sediment come out of the liquid first, and when it gets very cold, heavier hydrocarbon molecules like isononane and cyclo-heptane solidify slowly, though they look more like wax instead of ice cubes. When the temperature continues to lower, the gasoline in the vehicle gets even slushier and waxier until all remaining liquid gets frozen.
However, the sediments also form from impurities in your gasoline tank. Colder temperatures just make the sediment more solid. Therefore, most fuel tanks come with filters in the fuel line to catch the sediment so that it doesn’t go into the engine and cause issues.
The problem arises when more of the gasoline gets waxy because there are more of the sediment bits and the gasoline cannot flow easily through the fuel line to where it needs to be. However, this doesn’t usually happen until the temperature goes between -40 and -200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a wide range because gasoline is a blend or mixture of many liquids and chemicals.
Another factor in determining when gasoline freezes is the crude oil it was made from, as refineries have the ability to tweak gasoline mixtures that they create. Therefore, they can offer special blends for particularly cold climates.
Frozen Fuel Line Symptoms
The trouble with gasoline is that there are no symptoms. Long before the gas freezes in the car, the elements that freeze are water and vapor. Therefore, it’s essential to talk about what you can expect if your fuel line freezes.
When water and its vapor freezes in the car, they tend to block gasoline in the fuel line so that it cannot enter the engine. The symptoms to consider include:
- Sputtering or stopping while moving: While the car generates heat during movement, the gas tank can freeze anyway. If you notice stalling or sputtering, it’s a sure sign that something is amiss and could indicate that the fuel line is frozen.
- Not turning over: If your fuel line hasn’t completely frozen but is freezing, you’re likely to notice that the engine turns over but doesn’t start. You can tell if the fuel line is frozen when it doesn’t turn over at all.