When the weather outside is frightful, Jack Frost can nip at more than just your nose. Living in a winter wonderland can take a toll on your car, too. Caring for your vehicle during the harsh winter months is not like maintaining your car during temperate seasons. The most wonderful time of the year can quickly turn into a frenzy of car issues if you don’t winterize your vehicle.
But before the snow, ice, and freezing temperatures make your days not so merry and bright, knowing how to combat common winter car problems can help you avoid stressful situations. How can you safeguard your vehicle during the cold? Check out these frequent causes of winter car troubles and how to avoid them.
Tire pressure can fluctuate when temperatures fluctuate. If outdoor temperatures drop drastically, the pressure in your tires can drop as well, and driving on low tires is a bad idea.
You should always keep your tires at their recommended PSI, especially during the winter. You need traction to safely drive on snowy or slushy roadways, and low tire pressure can decrease traction. It can also decrease the endurance of your tires and even lead to a sudden tire puncture. If you don’t want to mess with tire pressure fluctuations due to changing temps, consider getting heavier, thicker tires.
Furthermore, low tire pressure is not the only condition that can impact your ability to safely maneuver in winter precipitation. Driving on low tread tires is a big no-no, too. Bald tires and snow-covered roads are a bad combination.
Worn tread will not give you the traction you need to brake and steer properly. Not to mention, low tread tires tend to lose tire pressure. Nothing can replace the need for quality tires inflated to the correct PSI.
Car batteries don’t like the cold either. Plunging temperatures make it difficult for batteries to hold a charge. So when it takes extra energy for your car engine to get going in the cold, your battery may not be up for the challenge.
During the winter, it is important to make sure your battery is in tip-top shape. If your battery is more than a year old, it would be wise to check the voltage every so often.
Also, take the time to physically inspect your battery. A white, powdery substance on the battery terminals is an indication of corrosion. Corrosion can lead to battery failure.
If your battery needs replacing, consider buying a battery that is recommended for colder climates. More specifically, purchase a battery with a high cold cranking amps (CCA) count. The higher the count, the higher the starting amperage.
And last but not least, always carry jumper cables with you. This way, you can be prepared when those frigid temps get the best of your battery.
Windshield wipers are invaluable during a winter storm. You need them to have a clear view out your windshield. Checking on the condition of your wiper blades should be a regular part of your car maintenance, especially in the winter months.
Moreover, wiper blades can freeze to the surface of your windshield. If you turn on your wipers when they are frozen, the force could tear the blades. This could create a very big problem if it’s snowing and you are already on the road.
If your blades are cracked or torn, replace them immediately. You might even consider buying blades specifically designed to handle winter weather.
And before you begin your drive, physically examine whether your wiper blades are stuck to the windshield. Do not attempt to drive with frozen wipers.
Even your door locks can freeze in place. First and foremost, do not force frozen locks. This can damage your locks and lead to costly repairs.
Instead, check if you can enter your vehicle through another door that is not frozen while it naturally defrosts. If you want to attempt to defrost the lock, consider the following options:
- run a hair dryer over the lock
- heat your car key with a lighter before trying to unlock the door
- use an aerosol de-icer or WD-40 on the lock
- do NOT pour boiling water over the lock
Additional Winter Weather Tips
Salt – Wash your car regularly. The salt used to clear ice off the roadways can wreak havoc on the undercarriage, brakes, and wheel wells of your automobile.
Fuel – Keep your gas tank full. You never know when you will be stuck in a blizzard or traffic jam. Plus, a low gas tank can lead to expensive problems. How so? In colder temps, condensation can accumulate on the walls of your gas tank, and that water can drip into your gas. Water and gas mixed together will cause serious harm to your vehicle.
Antifreeze – Antifreeze and water do go together. If you do not want to worry about maintaining the right balance, consider using professionally premixed bottles of antifreeze and water. Antifreeze is extremely important to ensure the water in your engine’s cooling system does not freeze. And like the gas tank, do not let your antifreeze levels drop too low. You need that antifreeze to help regulate the temperature of your engine.
Oil – Motor oil is impacted by chilly temperatures as well. The cold can change the consistency of your oil, and when your oil is too thick, your engine can overheat. Yep, even amidst freezing weather, your engine is susceptible to overheating. Throughout the winter, consider using an oil that adapts to all temperatures.
If You Encounter Winter Car Problems
Winter weather can be unforgiving. If you find yourself in trouble, give Roadside Rescue a call. We offer 24-hr affordable towing services and roadside assistance all across the Wasatch Front. Our WreckMaster-certified tow truck technicians are ready to help when winter car problems interrupt your travel plans. Contact us today.