6 Ways Winter Can Damage Your Vehicle
Cold weather and inclement conditions can:
1. Slow Your Battery
When is the worst time to have a dead battery? In the cold, cold winter. When is it more likely to happen? In the cold, cold winter. Low temperatures slow the speed of the chemical reactions that need to take place inside the battery in order to turn the engine over. A battery that worked just fine in the fall can cause you more than a few headaches just a few months later.
It’s a good idea to get your battery checked at a service center or by your mechanic. If you need to replace it, it’s money well spent as it will be much more reliable. Also, when you arrive at your destination, remember to turn off power accessories, such as your stereo, heated seats, and climate control so they don’t unnecessarily drain the battery when you start it next.
Carry jumper cables and/or a jump pack in case of an emergency. If you do need a jump, make sure to leave your car running for 15-20 minutes to put “juice” back in the battery.
2. Damage Your Cooling System
This vital system circulates coolant (a mixture of antifreeze and water) through the engine to prevent it from overheating. The heat the coolant absorbs the heat and distributes it when you turn on your heater.
You should have a 50/50 mix to protect your vehicle in cold temperatures. If you have too much water in there, the coolant may freeze, expand inside the cooling system and engine block, and cause all sorts of pricey problems.
Take a peek at your coolant. Is it dark and murky? If so, it is a good time to flush the system and replace the gunky fluid with fresh coolant with the right ratio of antifreeze to water.
3. Thicken Your Fluids
Cold weather can cause your engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and windshield washer fluid to thicken. They’re not able to flow through their systems optimally, and this can impact performance. For example, if engine is too thick, it leads to increased internal friction, which can damage your engine. Make sure your oil is suitable for freezing temperatures - as is your windshield washer fluid.
Transmission, power steering, and brake fluids will be just fine if you give them a few minutes to warm up.
4. Keep Fuel from Reaching the Engine
When temperatures drop to freezing or below, the condensation that builds up in your fuel tank can freeze. Water drips down into the tank and mixes with the fuel. If you have a low fuel level, more condensation collects and settles to the bottom of the tank. If water in the fuel lines freezes, it blocks fuel from traveling from the tank to the engine. This is a simple fix: just keep your tank at least half full.
5. Impact Tire Performance
The rubber used in all-season tires is not formulated for winter: in cold temperatures below 45 degrees, tires lose flexibility, which means their grip on the road is not nearly as aggressive. Another problem is that every drop of 10 degrees reduces tire pressure by one pound. Your tires - which were properly inflated just this past fall - are now likely underinflated. This can lead to overheating, premature wear, separation of the treads, and even blowouts.
Invest in a set of winter tires and check your tire pressure regularly.
6. Damage the Body of Your Car
There are no shortage of winter conditions that can impact your car. Exposure to salt and sand is a big one. While they make the roads safer, they can also get lodged in your body panels and wheels and lead to rust.
Then there’s a danger of slipping and sliding on the roads or in parking lots. Hitting other cars, curbs, trees, fences, and other objects is not uncommon, especially if you do not have winter tires, as we mentioned above - and neither is hitting potholes.
Drive carefully: if conditions are messy and you can, stay off the roads. If you must travel, allow plenty of time and reduce your speed. It doesn’t hurt to carry an emergency kit in your vehicle with extra hats, gloves, flashlight, batteries, crank-powered radio, sand or kitty litter, traction mats, dried foods like jerky, and other essentials.
If your car is suffering with some winter-related damage, get in touch with the pros at SRM Paintwerks. We’ll keep dings and dents from becoming major, and expensive, problems down the road.