BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) – It’s that time of the year when temperatures are dropping. Even if temperatures are above freezing during the day, the nighttime can still see them drop drastically. Regardless of where you keep your car, in the garage or on the street, you need to be aware of the negative effects it can suffer from cold weather, and how to watch for them.
There are a variety of negative effects that cold weather can have on a car. Most of the time, simply keeping a closer eye on maintenance can stop most problems, but some cold weather problems require special attention. Even if you already know how to take care of your car in the winter, it never hurts to learn more about the weird ways temperature affects you.
The following list is compiled from several automotive sites like CRSautomotive, TiresPlus.com, CarandDriver.com, and summarizes the most common effects of winter weather on vehicles.
A basic understanding of science reveals that low temperatures cause metal to shrink – and that’s never good in a vehicle. In addition to metal tightening, the metal body of your car can be damaged by road salt. The salt that road crews put onto the street can easily stick to a car – specifically to the undercarriage, wheel wells, and brakes.
Corrosion can be stopped in the following ways:
- The solution to this is to wash your car more often than usual, paying special attention to the parts of the car previously mentioned.
- It is also a good idea not to wipe a car down, because excess salt can scratch paint off.
2) Tire pressure fluctuation
The same thing that happens to metal in the cold happens to the air in your tires – when temperatures are low, tire pressure decreases. After you have been driving your car for a certain amount of time, and it warms up, so does the air. This can refill the tires causing constant deflating and inflating, which is why it is only to be expected for them to suffer damage in the winter.
Several solutions exist for making tires more efficient in the winter:
- Take the car to a mechanic or check the pressures yourself as soon as the tire pressure light on your dashboard comes on, so that the necessary adjustments can be made to the tire pressure. If you don’t do this, tires can go flat when you least expect it.
- It is also important to check the wear on your tire treads, ensuring that your tires are either new, winter-weather tires, or both.
3) Dead battery
A car’s battery is very sensitive, especially to cold weather. When temperatures get low enough, the battery is so cold it becomes much harder to start the car.
- The easiest and quickest solution to prevent this is to replace your car battery before winter.
- If your car battery stops on the road anyway, it can be an easy fix: jumper cables are not hard to use.
- Another solution to prevent a battery dying that The Car Care Council suggests is keeping connections clean, tight, and free of corrosion.
- Another tactic is to purchase a battery warmer, available at most auto parts stores or online. The warmers typically cost between $30 and $70.
4) Thickening fluids
All the fluids in your car’s system – oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid – will thicken in the winter. When that happens, they will not flow as freely through the system and can cause your car to malfunction when you least expect it.
There are several solutions to thickening fluids:
- Refill all the fluids in your car, making sure they are at their proper levels.
- Switch to low viscosity or synthetic oil for the winter.
- Make sure to fill your windshield wiper fluid reservoir with fluid rated for the lowest temperature you will encounter during the season.
- You need to maintain the proper ratio between antifreeze and water in coolant, with very cold climates requiring as much as a 70/30 ratio to prevent a freeze-up.
5) Wiper malfunction
When windshield wipers are exposed to cold weather, they tend to freeze to the windshield overnight. They can break if you don’t clean the glass or peel the wipers off before turning them on. You can even damage the windshield itself that way if a lot of slurry is present, especially if it contains rock salt.
The solution for frozen wipers is simple:
- If you are expecting cold weather during the night and don’t want to deal with frozen or broken windshield wipers in the morning, take them off or tilt them up. That way they have no surface to freeze onto.
Constant going back and forth between warming up and cooling down causes problems across a car. The metal and plastic sections of your car collect condensation during the winter. Once condensation turns to water, it is one step away from forming ice. Ice leads to leaks in high and low-pressure systems like power steering, brake, and engine transmission.
The solutions to this leaking are:
- Going to a mechanic and flush all the fluids as part of your winter car preparation.
- Getting in the habit of warming up your car before driving.
7) Slowed Screens
If your car has liquid crystal display (LCD) screens, they become a bit sluggish when the car has been sitting in extreme cold. That’s because, just like the engine’s oil, molecules in liquid crystals slow down when the temperatures drop.
There is only one effective solution to speed a slow display back up:
- The only real solution to slowed car displays is to wait for them to warm back up.
- An engine block heater can be installed to speed up the process.
8) Icy Fuel Lines
Gasoline typically won’t freeze at temperatures above -40°F. However, if there is any water moisture from condensation in a fuel line, it can cause serious problems. Ice in the fuel line can inhibit fuel intake, making it hard to start your car or giving you a “sputtery,” bumpy ride.
There is one main way to avoid ice developing in fuel lines:
- One way to avoid an icy fuel line is to keep the gas tank at least half full in colder weather.
9) Rigid Rubber components
Rubber and synthetic rubber compounds technically don’t freeze. But they do get rigid in cold temperatures, and as they lose their “bendiness” they become extra brittle. This can cause several problems like engine belts breaking, windshield wipers crackin, and even doors sticking shut.
- Try wiping down your rubber door gaskets with silicone spray to prevent them from freezing shut.
- If you’re worried about the condition of your vehicle’s rubber parts, a winter vehicle inspection can also help identify any issues before it’s too late.
Usually, the best practice is to always stay up to date on inspecting and maintaining all systems in your vehicle.