6 Ways Cold Weather Affects Your Car and Tips for Drivers

Posted on
3 min to read

Depending on where you live, winter may bring not just snow, but below-freezing and even negative temperatures. Unfortunately, we don’t get to hibernate inside during the winter months, which means we need our cars to operate as well as they do in warmer weather. This guide will share possible vehicle issues and how to address them before they become dangerous or costly. 

The top 6 cold weather car issues and how to avoid them

1. Incorrect tire pressure

Cold temperatures contract air, meaning decreased tire pressure. Under-inflated tires are incredibly dangerous, as they can lead to a number of issues, like:

  • Tire blowout on the road
  • Reduced fuel efficiency
  • Instability and poor handling
  • Reduced longevity of tires

These same issues also apply to over-inflated tires. Fortunately, being proactive and checking tires once a week and when the temperature dips well below freezing, can help you catch improper tire pressures before they become problematic. If you live in an area that experiences frigid and snowy winters, investing in a set of winter tires is a wise move. Always make sure that your tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended specifications.

2. Loss of power/dead battery

If your car battery dies, you’re left in quite a predicament when you need to drive to work or run an errand. Cold temperatures slow the chemical processes inside the battery, reducing its ability to hold a charge. Old batteries are especially susceptible to winter failure. 

Make sure to keep a set of quality jumper cables in your trunk in case your battery needs a jolt of energy to get started. If you want to prevent the chance of your battery from dying in the winter altogether, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance and replacement. As an extra layer of protection, you can purchase a battery warmer if your area experiences extreme cold.

3. Thickening oil, transmission fuel and antifreeze

The cold brought on by winter can also impact the fluids that are vital for keeping your car running properly. It thickens oil, transmission fuel and antifreeze, causing them to move more slowly throughout the system. Diesel vehicles might even experience a “jelling” which renders the vehicle unable to start. This is especially dangerous for the oil because it cannot be pumped through the engine effectively. Following the manufacturer’s specifications for oil viscosity in the winter can help to maintain the vehicle’s functionality.

Your vehicle’s fuel line can also freeze if there is any condensation or moisture inside, making the car hard to start and run smoothly. Keep your fuel tank at least half full during the winter months and follow the manufacturer’s specifications as your vehicle might recommend a specific additive to be used.

4. Cracked windshield

Visibility is critical for safe driving, but snow and ice can cause major problems for your windshield, hindering your ability to see the road. Using your windshield wipers in an attempt to break up ice on your windshield will do little to clear it—you’re more likely to cause damage to the wipers. Windshield cracks tend to spread further when there is a big temperature difference from one side to the other. In other words, when it is cold outside and you use a lot of heat to keep warm inside the vehicle, the crack is more likely to get bigger and bigger.

Instead, let your vehicle warm up for a few minutes and allow the ice and snow to melt off the windshield before hitting the road. Keep your defroster on throughout your drive and if visibility continues getting worse, pull over until you’re all clear.

5. Sluggish technology and screens

The technology in your vehicle—think touchscreens, backup cameras and GPS navigation—is incredibly convenient in helping you get around safely and efficiently. However, freezing temperatures can slow these systems down or cause them to fail completely. Why? Because liquid crystal is used to operate them and just like the other fluids in your car, it thickens and moves more slowly through the system. To prevent this, let your car warm up a bit before firing up your favorite podcast or pulling up directions.    

6. Stiff or cracking rubber components

Rubber doesn’t freeze, but it does stiffen and lose its elasticity in cold temperatures. While it may not be top of mind, this actually can impact a lot of your car’s functionality. Entering your vehicle may even be difficult, as the rubber gaskets in the door jambs can tear, allowing water to get in and freezing doors shut! Other rubber parts can become brittle, crack and break, like wiper blades and belts in the motor. Fortunately, these issues can be avoided by having your vehicle inspected ahead of winter to ensure everything is in good shape.

How cold weather affects electric vehicles (EVs)

EVs aren’t immune to winter weather woes, either. Low temps reduce efficiency, as the battery must use more energy to not just keep the car running but also to run heat and other interior parts. It will also take longer to charge the vehicle, so make sure you’re regularly charging it so you’re not stuck in the cold without transportation. We’ve got some other helpful winter EV tips here.

Winter is coming

Cold weather is unavoidable—but winter driving issues shouldn’t be!

Be prepared for the havoc cold temperatures can bring by taking your car in for an inspection before winter starts. This will help you ensure everything is running at peak functionality and get any potential problems resolved before they get worse. If you’re buying a car to handle winter conditions, check out our tips for buying a used car. As always, Montway Auto Transport is here to support your vehicle shipping needs. If you’re heading down south for the winter, let us transport your car for you. Get started by calling us at 888-666-8929.

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