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7 Ways Cold Wears Down Your Vehicle

Winter weather conditions can cause major damage when your vehicle isn’t properly cared for. Here are some tips to avoid issues.

For some of us, winter weather and cold conditions are an expected part of the year. For those of us who live in warmer climates, it’s possible we rarely experience icy or freezing conditions. In either case, it’s a great idea to be aware of just how cold can affect our vehicles, and what we can do to protect them when the cold and snow arrive.

  • Your Battery Becomes Drained More Quickly
    • Typically, the expected life span of a car battery is about 3 yrs. Optimal temperatures are between 30 and 90 degrees F. In temperatures outside this range, capacity is affected. With lower capacity due to cold, your battery can fail to start your vehicle. According to Interstate Battery, a weak battery will begin to freeze at 32 degrees F, while a fully charged battery won’t freeze until about -76 degrees F. Having your battery tested is essential to ensure it will perform in extreme temperatures. Another preventative measure is keeping your vehicle in a garage if possible, to minimize exposure to the cold.
  • Necessary Fluids Can Thicken
    • Oil, antifreeze, power steering, brake, and transmission fluids will thicken in very cold temperatures, and this affects the fluids’ ability to flow freely through the system, which puts your vehicle’s internal systems at risk of damage. Be sure to change your vehicle’s fluids as necessary before cold weather hits. When starting the vehicle in winter conditions, allow the vehicle to warm up for about 10 minutes before driving.
  • Tire Pressure Changes With The Temperatures
    • For every 10 degrees the temperature drops, your tires will lose about 1 PSI (pound per square inch) of pressure. While this may not sound like a lot, consider that a 30 degree temperature drop means your tires will be 3 PSI under-inflated. Under-inflated tires will experience uneven wear and are weakened and become vulnerable to damage and even blow outs. If the temperature outside has changed drastically, be sure to check the pressure as soon as possible.
  • Washer Fluid Can Freeze
    • Wipers are made of soft rubber and are easily damaged in icy conditions. Damaged blades do not perform well, and are a safety risk. Be sure your wipers are replaced when not in good condition, especially before a snow storm hits. Tilting up the blades before the storm can help to prevent damage from ice and snow, as well as scraping and defrosting the windshield appropriately before using the wipers.
  • Spark Plugs Weaken In Cold Weather
    • Bad spark plugs, plug wires, or ignition components can be another reason your vehicle may fail to start in cold weather.  Condensation can build up in the vehicle’s internal systems, freeze, and cause fluids to leak in the power steering, brake, and transmission. Have these systems checked as part of your regular maintenance and replace or repair as necessary to avoid being stranded in the cold.
  • Road Salt Causes Rust
    • In many places, road crews use salt to melt ice on the roads and ensure safer travel. The downside to this is that the salt can stick to the metal parts of the vehicle, especially the undercarriage, brakes, and wheel wells. This will cause corrosion and lead to rust. To avoid this, wash the vehicle frequently (every 1 to 2 weeks) as weather permits, and wax every 3 to 4 washes. never wipe the vehicle with a cloth, as this can cause the salt to scratch the paint. Repair chipped or peeling paint as soon as possible to prevent exposed metal.
  • Excessive Idling Might Be A Bad Idea
    • In some states, idling your vehicle is actually illegal – be sure to do your research as to whether this applies to your location. Additionally, excessive idling wastes gas, and can strip the lubricating oils from the engine’s pistons and cylinder walls. If you are in doubt, check with your mechanic to find out if there is any benefit to your specific vehicle.



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