As we all know, winter is a dangerous time for drivers, not only because icy roads can make for risky conditions, but also because colder weather can damage your vehicle, even when it’s just sitting in the driveway.
Almost every part of your car or truck is vulnerable to frigid conditions, and it’s important to be prepared so that you can continue to drive safely throughout the season. Here are some of the biggest ways that the cold can hurt your car and when you can do about it.
If you don’t have a garage – and even if you do – winter weather is unavoidable for your car’s exterior. First of all, there’s ice; any time it freezes, your car is susceptible to damage.
If your windshield is frozen, make sure you use the right tools – like a scraper made from plastic or a material that won’t scratch the glass – as well as your car’s defrost function. The most important tip to remember is that hot or even warm water can cause the glass to crack or even break, so avoid that flawed technique. It’s also key to not use your wipers while they’re frozen, as it can burn up their motor and mechanism.
There’s also salt, which is used in many areas to keep roads safe. While salt is helpful, it can be damaging to your vehicle, as it often can get stuck underneath your car, causing corrosion and rust. To combat this, get your car washed regularly throughout the winter and make sure you get the undercarriage done.
Whenever you know a storm is on its way, it’s a good idea to be prepared. You can start by leaving your wipers standing up, so they don’t get frozen or damaged, as well as bringing your car into the garage if possible.
One of the lesser-known effects of cold weather on your vehicle is how it can damage the battery. Your car’s battery runs because of a series of reactions within the housing. During the cold, the various fluids like mercury inside can get thicker, slowing down its functionality and sometimes draining it when you weren’t aware.
To make sure your battery stays ready to go all season long, make sure to take extra care when you get home or to work that you turn off all electrical functions like the lights, but also the climate control, audio, and heated seats.
Risky Tire Pressure
As most drivers know, when it starts to get colder outside, car tires often seem as if they’re deflating, which is only partially true. While deflated from the level they were at in warmer temperatures, it doesn’t mean you have a leak or anything. It simply means that the air has compressed due to colder temperatures.
For every ten degrees that the air drops in temperature, your tires lose a pound of tire pressure. If you’re not prepared beforehand, a cold front can be devastating for your tires. Even worse, the rubber on tires loses a lot of its effectiveness during the cold, becoming less flexible with lower grip. Fortunately, these problems can be alleviated by visiting your local tire shop before the cold hits.
Like the fluids and reactions in your battery, there are other fluids in your car that all have the tendency to thicken up and slow down in frigid temperatures. From transmission fluid to brake fluid and even engine oil, your fluids are vulnerable.
If your oil gets too thick, it can harm your engine. If you live in an area where it drops below zero degrees outside, you’ll need to make sure to change your oil before the next freeze, as you’ll need a specific type of oil that works in subzero temperatures.
Not only oil but a few other fluids – like windshield wiper fluid – can be switched out in the winter to make sure you avoid freezes. When it’s starting to freeze outside, just take it slow, allowing your car to warm up before you really put the pedal to the metal.
Cooling System Damage
Cars can overheat, which is why cars have a cooling system in the form of your radiator and coolant. In the winter, you’re at less risk for overheating, but the cold can freeze the coolant in the systems that circulate throughout your car, which is not good – a car that overheats is at high risk and can even sometimes be totaled.
Since coolant is a diluted mixture of water and antifreeze, it’s vital you don’t have the ratios off as you get into the winter. As is the case with your tires and other fluids, you should check with your mechanic before the winter gets really nasty and ensure that the ratio is just right.
Hazards on the Road
Finally, as we all know, the winter can simply be dangerous for drivers. With sleet, ice, snow, and freezing rain all coming down all season long, it can make the road particularly dangerous.
If you live in an area where the winter lasts a long time and can get severely cold, your best option is to upgrade to winter tires, as well as purchasing chains and even a vehicle with all-wheel drive if you’re able. Driving can be unpredictable in the winter, but there are many ways to increase your safety, like these tips we’ve written about here.
When your car has trouble, and your engine won’t start, it’s vital to have a mechanic you can trust. That’s where we come in. Our team provides expert full-service repair for almost any vehicle. Contact us today to take advantage of our Winterization Special on your vehicle and get ready for cold weather.