Cold weather poses many challenges for drivers, not only due to hazardous road conditions but also in terms of their vehicles’ performance. If you ignore this potential for trouble, you could find yourself stranded in your driveway or along the side of the road.
Fortunately, you can take steps to keep your car working at many temperatures once you understand the risks presented by cold weather. Consider the following three cold-weather problems and solutions.
1. Battery Challenges
When temperatures drop, so does battery efficiency. And a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit reduces your starter battery’s maximum charging power by 35 percent, with colder weather debilitating it even further. The more accessories you plug into your car’s electrical system, the less power remains to actually start the car.
If you have a new starter battery in your vehicle, you may not notice much difference in your car’s ability to start. However, if your battery power has steadily dropped over time, the car may not start at all, especially when frigid weather typically requires more current to start a car than in warmer weather.
Pay extra attention to your car battery during cold snaps. Have its power level tested by an automotive technician, and consider replacing an aging battery even earlier than you would in moderate conditions. You may also benefit from attaching, running, and or charging fewer electronic devices from your battery until things warm up.
2. Sluggish Fluid Circulation
Car care relies on numerous fluids to help it perform its various functions, from braking and gear changes to engine lubrication and protection. These fluids can thicken in colder weather.
When temperatures drop below freezing, you’ll want to thin out these thickened fluids by letting your car warm-up for about 15 minutes before hitting the highway. If you’ve used lightweight engine oil in the warmer months, ask your automotive technician whether you should switch to a heavier oil.
Don’t forget that cold weather can actually cause your windshield washer fluid to freeze inside the nozzles that spray the fluid onto the windshield. It can also cause damage to the fluid’s reservoir or lines, leaving you with no fluid at all. An absence of washer fluid can leave you with serious visibility problems that threaten your safety.
Make a point to check your windshield washer fluid system during icy weather, and repair any components that broke in a previous freeze. If the fluid you currently use tends to freeze up, have your auto shop swap it out for another product rated for colder temperatures. At the same time, have fluid lines checked for leaks.
3. Tire Concerns
Drivers should make sure that their tires maintain proper air pressure and tread depth all year round. However, cold weather can force you to watch your tires even more closely and step in to inflate or even replace them earlier than you otherwise might.
Many car tires suffer from under-inflation in cold weather. The problem stems from the fact that air molecules move more slowly and stick together as the temperature drops, reducing the air pressure inside the tire. Each 10-degree drop in temperature can reduce a tire’s air pressure by about one pound per square inch, according to Family Handyman.
Tire tread also grows less efficient as cold weather leaves snow and ice on roads. Tests have indicated that even with half of their tread depth remaining, tires have 14.5 percent less snow traction under acceleration and seven percent longer wet-weather stopping distances than newer equivalents with totally intact tread.
Check your tire pressure before every trip. Add air as needed, based on the recommendations listed in the owner’s manual. When traveling, check the air pressure if you’ve parked the car for more than three hours.
You don’t have to throw out tires that still have half of their tread life on them. However, if you must drive through extended wintry conditions, consider keeping a separate set of snow tires handy.
White’s Automotive Center can prepare your car for extremes in weather and temperature. Contact us today to learn more and tell us what you need.