Several U.S. states face harsh winters that can take a heavy toll on a vehicle. If you’re not taking the right precautions to protect your car, you may end up visiting your mechanic more often, or worse, find yourself stranded on a cold blustery day.
That’s why you need to understand how winter affects your car and what you can do to minimize winter damage to your car.
How Winter Affects Your Car
In winter, auto mechanics notice an uptick in the number of motorists needing vehicle repairs, and it’s typically due to the following reasons.
Reduced Tire Pressure
Colder temperatures tend to deflate the air in your tires. Tire pressure is measured in PSI, which stands for “pounds per square inch." In cold weather, the pressure can drop by 1 PSI for every 10 degrees the outdoor temperature drops.
That means you could be running on underinflated tires that make driving on wet or snowy roads more hazardous. Check your tire pressure throughout winter and keep it properly inflated.
Damaged Tires or Rims
Potholes just seem to pop up everywhere in winter. With rain puddles or snow covering them, you won’t see them until that jarring moment when you hit them. Tire and rim damage from slamming into potholes occurs more frequently in winter than in any other season.
Have you noticed that your car sometimes takes longer to start in winter? That’s because cold weather causes the battery to discharge faster. This also puts your battery at risk of dying halfway through winter.
But a dead battery isn’t always the battery itself. In some cases, it’s the alternator. The alternator acts as a mini generator that charges the battery. On an extremely cold day, your alternator may need up to 20 minutes or more of drive time to recharge.
Cold weather can cause fluids to thicken or freeze. This includes water, oil, fuel, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and windscreen washer fluid.
In freezing temperatures, it may cause water in the radiator to freeze, or water may end up in your fuel line and turn to ice. Thicker oil won’t easily flow through the engine. All of this will impact your car’s efficiency and result in expensive repairs later on.
Antifreeze keeps water flowing freely through the radiator, and switching to a winter oil if you live in temperatures of 32 degrees or below can avoid engine damage.
Salting roads is common practice to melt snow and ice. However, it has a downside. Driving on salted roads means the salt kicking up off the road is settling on the car’s undercarriage. This leads to rust. Wash your car regularly during winter, making sure to hose down the undercarriage thoroughly.
How to Protect Your Car During Winter
A few simple steps can keep your car in tip-top condition and prevent many winter-related problems.
1. Give Your Car a Winter Tune-Up
Taking your car for a pre-winter tune-up can spot any faults with the brakes, battery, lights, fluids, belts and hoses, and windscreen wipers, and you can fix it before winter arrives.
2. Use a Battery Warmer
If you live in an area that experiences freezing to sub-zero temperatures, a battery warmer will insulate your battery and help prevent those spluttery start-ups.
3. Clean Your Car Inside and Out
Salt from roads doesn't only affect the outside of a vehicle. Snow from your shoes or boots gets deposited inside your car. When it melts, the salt water will seep into the floor. Remove car mats and let it dry, and mop up excess water on the floor.
Winter is one of the most dangerous times on the roads. Your chance of being involved in a road accident dramatically increases. Taking a defensive driving course can significantly reduce the risk.
Sign up for Driversed.com’s defensive driving course and learn how to become a safer driver during the winter months.