Four Ways Winter Weather Can Damage Your Vehicle

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Last Updated: February 24th, 2020

snowy car window

For most drivers, snow in the weather forecast conjures a sense of dread. Roads grow slippery and snow piles turn even the quietest neighborhood streets into bumpy terrains. Many people would rather stay indoors than venture out on snow-covered roads. 

But snow isn’t the only winter weather that can cause damage to your vehicle. The cold air alone can silently wreck your vehicle’s most important components. Once temperatures drop below freezing, your car becomes susceptible to all kinds of issues, from dead batteries to flat tires. Here are some of the most common ways cold weather can damage your vehicle. 

1. Dead battery

A dead battery is one of the most common vehicle issues driver's experience when cold weather hits. Thousands of cars around the country end up needing a tow to their nearest repair shop because cold weather killed their battery.

Cold weather puts extra pressure on your car’s battery, forcing your vehicle to work hard to start. Cold weather can also drain voltage relatively quickly, especially if your car isn’t in use or if your battery is old. If you find yourself not using your car during the cold winter months, it’s a good idea to go out and start it up once in a while to test out the battery before you’re left stranded. 

Experts also recommend replacing your car battery every three years. Batteries more than three years old are more susceptible to drainage. If you have a garage on your property, think about storing your car in the warmth for the winter. It won’t only protect your vehicle from the elements, but it will also keep your vehicle in between the 30–90°F happy spot it likes best. 

2. Thick fluids

Your car carries a lot of fluid, from oil and antifreeze to transmission fluid and windshield cleaner. These fluids won’t necessarily freeze when the temperature dips, but they will thicken up like cold maple syrup. 

Transmission fluid will thicken at around 35°F. If you can’t get your transmission fluid running quickly, your car won’t function properly. 

To keep your vehicle’s fluids running, warm your car up for about 15 minutes before hitting the road. Also, make sure your fluids are topped off. It’s hard for thick fluids to be forced up if they’re low. 

3. Low tire pressure

Cold weather can decrease your tire pressure by as much as one pound per square inch for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. Driving with such low pressure will lead to increased wear and tear on your tire, as well as cause dangerous blowouts when you’re on the road. When you’re driving along icy roads, the last thing you want is to lose control of your vehicle. 

Think about investing in winter tires, which are more durable and less susceptible to pressure loss brought on by cold weather. They’ll also help you navigate snowy and icy roads. 

4. Salt corrosion

Salt works wonders when it comes to keeping the roads safe for driving, even during the most blustery of winter storms. However, it can wreak havoc on your vehicle’s appearance and functionality. 

Road salt can stick to the metal of your car and can corrode it over time. The underbelly of your car is especially susceptible to this. Corrosion can occur to your breaks, your wheel wells, your exhaust, and your muffler. Any number of your vehicle components can malfunction and lead to costly damage. Often, salt damage isn’t covered by insurance or an extended vehicle warranty. 

Wash your car about once a month during the winter. Use rust-proofing spray or sealant to protect your car’s undercarriage. If you can, keep your car in a garage throughout the winter.

Maintain your vehicle all year long

One of the easiest ways to ensure your vehicle is safe for winter weather driving is to keep it maintained throughout the year. Sometimes even the smallest issues can be made worse by cold weather. If you’re experiencing issues with your battery, your engine, your tires, or other car components, consider getting your car checked by a certified mechanic before the winter months. 

If you have invested in an extended vehicle warranty, your contract with the provider will require you to perform vehicle maintenance on schedule. Letting required maintenance lapse can result in claim denial, so be sure to check your owner’s manual and perform maintenance on schedule!

Thinking about investing in an extended vehicle warranty? Vehicle protection plans can help cover the cost of unexpected mechanical (and electrical) breakdown. Many providers offer free quotes, so you can start planning now. 

Winter weather will never be fun for car owners. But you can take steps to make it less daunting — and less dangerous — by keeping your vehicle up to par all year long. 

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