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Discussion Starter #1
Hi!

It recently reached -20°C here in Finland and along with the cold my Note started exhibiting strange behaviour. It's a 2012 Note E11, 1.4l CR14DE engine.

When I try to start it in under -10°C (but not under -18°C) the starter motor turns for a few seconds and then finally ignition is reached and the car starts. The startup is not as immediate as it is when it is warm. However, once the car starts it runs absolutely perfectly, no problems with stalling or the like whatsoever.

Now when I try to start it in under -18°C, it doesn't start at all. The starter motor will turn just fine (not a battery problem) but the car simply will not start. It does not help even if I give it a little or a lot of gas, nothing happens. Starter just turns but the car is not even "trying". I could keep trying for hours (or until the battery goes flat) but it will not do anything.
Last time it happened we pushed the car into the garage and after it had warmed up for a few hours it started again just fine, with no issues whatsoever.

The starter turning happily but no start leads me to either believe a problem with the ignition, fuel or air systems (missing spark, missing fuel, missing air.) The car shows no OBD fault codes either. One strange thing as well is that when I last encountered this issue, I really gave it some boot (I did 20-30 5 second tries to start with varying amounts of gas pedal pushed.) This would normally result in flooded spark plugs right? But when we pushed the car in the garage to warm up and tried a few hours later, it started up instantly, as if the spark plugs were not wet at all. Giving some credence to the fuel system theory?

What I have done so far:
1) Replaced spark plugs with new NGK ones, as suggested by the manual. No help.
2) Replaced the engine oil, 5W-40 as suggested by the manual. No help.
3) I suspected there may have been water in the tank along with the fuel, so I added a fuel additive (antifreeze kind) along with the fuel for a few tankfuls, drove the tank empty and made sure to fill her up completely to avoid any condensation freezing each time. No help.

Could it be:
1) The ignition coils? Should I replace them?
2) Some sensor? Air sensor? Throttle position sensor?
3) Fuel pump? Could it fail due to low temperature and then work again when it is warmer? How easy is it to test if there is pressure in the fuel pump system?

Again, when it's warmer than -10°C, absolutely no problems, car runs just fine.

Thank you in advance for any help with my brainstorm.
 

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Have you thought of the fuel filter ?
It could be full of crud or slightly freezing stopping the fuel getting through.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Have you thought of the fuel filter ?
It could be full of crud or slightly freezing stopping the fuel getting through.
Excellent suggestion. I did wonder about that, forgot to mention it's a petrol engine so I believe on the E11 it's integrated into the fuel tank, right? Non-user-accessible?
 

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I beleive the pump is in the tank but i could be wrong.
I have no doubt someone will know about the fuel filter.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Despite her shyness in front of the camera I managed to shoot a video just now.
It plunged below 18 minus today again and no start:

Good thing is I can now try to diagnose the problem: the car's in my (cold) garage.
I tried a "starter spray" just now, no help, no change at all.
Due to the harsh winters in Finland, all cars are equipped with heating systems, so I plugged the car into the heater for now. Will go see in 10 minutes if she'll start with a warm engine - if not I will start suspecting a fault in fuel lines / fuel pump / fuel filter as those obviously don't get warm with the engine heater.
 

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An observation- the rev counter isn't moving. Most likely the ecu doesn't think the engine is going round, so I'd start by looking at the crank sensor.
Try reading any fault codes, if it were the cam sensor I'd expect some errors, but if it is the crank sensor it will just assume the engine isn't supposed to be running.
 
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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
An observation- the rev counter isn't moving. Most likely the ecu doesn't think the engine is going round, so I'd start by looking at the crank sensor.
Try reading any fault codes, if it were the cam sensor I'd expect some errors, but if it is the crank sensor it will just assume the engine isn't supposed to be running.
Thanks a lot! I read codes from OBD right before and after trying to start, no logged/pending/historical faults.

Car was plugged in with the engine heater for 30 min and now started without issues. Coolant was warmed up to ~60°C when I checked with my OBD app.

So it's definitely something inside the engine, but only causes issues when it's below -18°C or so. And some heating up of the engine makes it work again. Really strange.

EDIT: For comparison's sake, regarding the rev counter, here's a start with warm engine:
Even with normal starting, it takes a moment for the starter to "catch up" the engine. But once it runs, there's zero issues.
 
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