Cold weather is some of the most enjoyable weather, but it can also cause car problems. For some areas of the country, extreme cold weather is a new part of life. It’s important that you and your car are ready for the common car problems cold weather can cause for both.
Temperatures change, so why does it matter to your car at all?
Why Does Cold Weather Cause Car Issues
Cold temperatures can take a toll on your car’s systems. Lower temperatures can alter the pressure in your tires and affect the various components in your car. In addition to the impact on your car itself, cold weather can impact driving conditions as well.
You should always consider the weather conditions and how to keep yourself and your car the safest.
What Does Cold Weather Do to Your Car?
Colder temperatures can have an effect on your car battery, tire pressure, floor mats, and the fluids in your vehicle that are needed for optimum operation of your vehicle. It’s important to learn the common cold-weather car issues you may face and how you can best be prepared for the next temperature drop.
8 Ways Cold Weather Causes Car Issues
Most of us are aware of how cold weather can affect our health. The cold weather can put our immune system, skin, body temperature, and more through strain and give us problems.
Like our bodies, our car’s systems can be at risk due to cold temperatures. Here are some common issues your car may face during the winter months.
1. Your Battery Can Die
Batteries require an electrochemical reaction that is sufficient enough to perform the necessary tasks of a car’s battery. In cold weather, a car’s battery must work harder to produce enough power, and this can cause your battery to burn out and die faster than it would in other weather conditions.
A full battery can withstand much lower temperatures more easily, but a battery that is not fully charged can freeze and cause malfunctioning at the slightest dip below freezing.
To avoid waking up to a dead battery, check your battery’s fluid levels and maintain battery-saving habits. These can include turning off your vehicle’s lights when they are not in use, disconnecting chargers, and allowing your battery to recharge with the engine running.
2. Engine Fluids Can Thicken in Cold Weather
Oil is one of the most important engine fluids of your car. Cold weather can cause oil to thicken and disrupt the easy flow of your system’s oil. When your engine oil moves more slowly, the oil pump has to work harder to distribute oil throughout the engine, which can put undue strain on your oil pump.
The extra effort by your oil pump can increase friction and add pressure. The added pressure can cause cracks, leaks, and breaks in canisters, sealant rings, and other components. Cold oil can also cause a delay in how long it takes for your engine to reach its optimum temperature. A new car will not take as long to reach an optimum temperature as older cars.
To correct this issue of thick oil, you may need to adjust the type of oil you’re using in your car during colder winter months. Consider scheduling seasonal oil changes to prepare your vehicle before colder temperatures strike.
3. Parts Corrode
The harsh truth about cold weather is that it can corrode cars and their components. In addition to the frigid temperatures, the sand, salt, and liquid calcium chloride that can help improve traction on winter roads can also contribute to the corrosion of components in your car and increase your tread wear on your tires.
Sleet, ice, snow, and freezing rain can all coat your car in liquid. This coating can cause your vehicle to experience rusting faster. It’s a good idea to give your vehicle a thorough waxing before the winter months to provide increased protection.
4. Your Tire Pressure Drops in Cold Weather
When you get in your car in the first cold mornings of fall or winter, you may notice your vehicle’s low-pressure warning light is on in your dashboard. Most modern cars have O2 sensors in all the tires, and you may be notified by differences.
You may notice that the warning is gone by the time you get in your vehicle at lunch. The cooler temperatures cause the air to become denser, and subsequently, the tire pressure in your tires will be lower as well. As the day warms, your tire pressure may return to normal due to air expansion from the warmer temperature.
It’s important to monitor your tire pressure frequently. Check your tire pressure monthly to ensure that your tires are properly inflated to lower your risk of accidents. If you don’t know how to check your tire pressure with a tire gauge, you can typically ask your mechanic to check your tire pressure for little to no cost to you. This can help you avoid a flat tire in the future.
In your pre-winter tire maintenance, be sure to have your wheel bearings checked as well because the cold weather increases the viscosity and restricts the flow of lubrication. Therefore, your wheel bearings can become damaged during cold weather.
5. Spark Plugs Can Fail
Spark plugs can fail at low temperatures. Bad spark plugs can cause car engine misfiring. Before the cold-weather season, it’s important to check your spark plugs for corrosion, and you will need to replace them as needed to ensure that you don’t have a spark plug failure on a cold morning.
6. Windshield Wipers Can Fail
Cold weather can cause our skin to become dry and chapped. Cold weather can have a similar effect on your steering wheel, upholstery, and windshield wipers. Harsh temperatures can cause your wiper blades to become brittle and decrease their efficiency.
In addition to making wiper blades brittle, the wipers can freeze up. If they do function, the conditions can cause your wiper to work harder, and the increased wear and tear can lead to wiper failure in the future. If you install winter wipers, you can prevent unnecessary future car repair costs.
7. Locks Can Freeze
There are many ways that the cold weather can impact your car, but when the cold weather freezes your car lock, it can cause you to panic. Not only is it freezing outside, but you also are now locked out of your car in that freezing weather. It is possible to fix this problem quickly and easily.
You can try to use a de-icer on the lock. You can warm your key with a flame. Avoid using boiling water to try to assist with this problem. You can help prevent a frozen door lock by parking in a covered area, wiping the lock down when you park it to remove excess water and implementing keyless ignition to warm up your car on more modern cars.
8. Fuel Lines Can Freeze
When it’s cold outside, your body shivers, your teeth may chatter, and you may even let out an involuntary “brrr!” Your car may complain about the cold in its own way. You may notice that your car is squeaking, squealing, or voicing other car complaints. Most of these complaints come from your car’s brake pads, and as the car warms up, the complaints should subside.
Your vehicle’s engine has fuel lines that connect all of the various fuel system components, and the cold weather can cause these fuel lines to freeze. Hard freezing in your fuel lines can cause cracks, leading to costly repairs.
Similarly, freezing temperatures can affect the solenoid of your car’s air conditioner and cooling system, and they can cause the car’s radiator coolant to freeze and expand. This can lead to common problems like engine overheating and a dreaded diagnosis for car owners of a cracked radiator.
How Can I Protect My Car From Cold Weather?
If you plan to escape the cold weather, consider taking your car with you — you can even ship your car to your warmer destination. Bringing your car with you means it won’t be left behind, sitting in the cold temperatures and possibly sustaining damage. Leaving your car behind means planning to leave it in good shape, sheltered, and in a safe spot.
Shipping your car with Carvaygo can help you avoid driving in the winter conditions, leaving your car behind, or adding a long road trip to your seasonal shift. You can also choose an enclosed transport carrier to keep your vehicle safe from the harsh elements when you ship your car.
What To Do Next
The best way to avoid costly auto repair is to prepare your vehicle at the start of every season for the weather it should be experiencing. Have checks performed on your alternator, battery, air filter, brake system, electrical systems, rotors, and other important vehicle components to keep your car maintained and the check engine light off.
Winter Weather Driving Tips | NHTSA
How does cold weather affect your health? | Harvard Health
Winter Driving Safety | NHTSA