Let’s face it: Driving your car in the cold weather isn’t always fun. Between slippery roads, frosty windows, and traffic delays, wintertime travel comes with its fair share of challenges.
In order to protect both yourself and your vehicle from weather-related damage, it’s important to understand the ways cold weather can affect your car. Keep reading to learn about the effects of cold weather on various automotive parts and get expert suggestions on how to take care of your vehicle this winter.
#1. Will Below-Freezing Temperatures Damage My Car?
Good news: Modern cars are specifically designed to withstand cold weather. Less-good news: Prolonged exposure to below-freezing temperatures can strain certain components. Your car’s battery, various fluids, and even its paint can all be affected by extreme cold. If you live in an environment that consistently sees temperatures below freezing, regular maintenance and proper winterization are key to protecting your vehicle.
#2. Do I Need to Let My Car Warm Up in the Winter?
In the past, you may have needed to idle your car for a while before driving it in cold weather. If you have a newer car, you don’t have to worry about that anymore! Modern engines are designed to be driven almost immediately, even in winter. However, allowing your car to run for a minute or two before beginning your journey can help circulate the oil, which is especially helpful in the extreme cold.
#3. Can Gas Freeze?
While water turns into ice at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, gasoline needs to be much colder before it freezes — depending on the type of gasoline, its freezing point is anywhere from 40 to 100 degrees below zero. This means it’s unlikely to freeze in a typical winter environment.
Moisture in the fuel line freezes much easier than gasoline, though, causing blockages. To reduce the chances of moisture buildup occurring, try to keep your gas tank at least half full.
#4. What Happens to Tire Pressure in Cold Weather?
You may have noticed that your car’s tire pressure warning light comes on frequently in cold weather. This is because air contracts when it cools, causing tire pressure to decrease. For every 10-degree drop in temperature, tire pressure decreases by about 1 psi. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to inflate your tires every time it gets cold, but it’s still a good idea to regularly check your tire pressure during the winter months to ensure safety and optimal performance.
#5. How Does Cold Weather Affect Engine Performance?
Cold weather causes motor oil to become thicker, which can put strain on the engine. Modern synthetic oils are less susceptible to this issue, but it’s still important to use the right oil grade for winter conditions. Cold temperatures can also cause the engine to have to work harder than usual, potentially reducing fuel efficiency.
#6. How Does Cold Weather Impact the Battery?
Much to your annoyance, you may have observed that it’s harder to start your car on a frigid winter morning. This is because your car’s battery is one of the most susceptible components to cold weather. When temperatures drop below freezing, the chemical reactions required to generate electricity are slowed down, which reduces the battery’s power output. To prevent issues, it’s a good idea to have your battery tested before winter descends and replace it if necessary.
#7. How Does Cold Weather Impact Braking Performance?
Automotive brake systems can be less responsive in cold weather. This occurs for two reasons: The brake fluid thickens, and ice or snow on the road affect traction. It’s absolutely crucial to have your brakes checked and serviced before temperatures drop. You also need to drive more cautiously in winter, allowing for increased stopping distances.
Tips for Winter Car Care
Now that you know the ways cold weather can affect your car, here are some additional tips to help you take proper care of your vehicle when the temperatures drop:
- Battery maintenance: Test your battery. If it’s old or weak, replace it. You also may want to consider a battery blanket for extra insulation.
- Oil and fluids: If recommended by your car’s manufacturer, switch to a winter-grade oil. Top off all fluids to prepare for winter travel.
- Tire care: Regularly check your tire pressure and tread depth. Snow tires are recommended for especially icy climates, as they provide better traction.
- Emergency kit: When it comes to driving through a winter wonderland, it’s important to be prepared for the worst. Keep an emergency kit in your car, including a flashlight, blankets, a first-aid kit, water, and snacks.
Be Prepared to Face Cold Weather Challenges
If you’re facing the challenges that come with driving in cold weather, trust the experts at Shadetree Automotive to get you back on track. Whether you need a new battery, brake maintenance, or snow tires, we have all the tools you need to travel safely, no matter the season. Don’t put off essential wintertime maintenance — schedule a service appointment today!