It’s Time to Squash These Winter Car Care & Driving Myths

The last one really needs to be crushed!

There is a lot of good information available on and elsewhere on the web about how to prepare and maintain your car for winter. There is also a fair amount of misinformation that has circulated for many years around how you should treat your car in the winter. Everyone knows a self-proclaimed car care expert with loads of information they swear to be true, but if you don’t know the facts yourself, you might find yourself in a predicament. Let’s address some of the things people have heard about.

Idling your car will warm it up faster.

Traffic - cars driving on snowpacked road in snowstorm.

This is an idea that has persisted for decades with absolutely no supporting evidence. In actuality, only about 20 seconds is necessary to get the oil flowing enough to properly lubricate the engine. This is the safest, most effective way to warm up your car on those cold winter mornings. After that, driving it will continue the warm-up process and get your engine running at optimum temperature.


Additionally, evidence suggests that idling your car in the winter not only wastes gas, but may also cause damage to your engine over time, namely your engine’s pistons and cylinders. Combustion engines run on a mixture of air and vaporized fuel, and when this mixture enters the cylinder, a piston compresses it, and a spark ignites it. This is what generates a combustion event, or tiny explosion. In cold weather gasoline is less likely to evaporate, causing your engine to overcompensate and add more fuel to the air-vapor mixture. Too much gasoline in a combustion engine is detrimental to the life of engine lubrication.

Pour hot water on your windshield to melt ice.

If you are hoping for a cracked or shattered windshield, this will do the trick. Even auto glass is prone to cracking and cannot handle an extreme temperature change like freezing cold to boiling hot. This will inevitably cause the glass to flex, then crack or shatter. No one wants to stand out in the cold scraping an endless sheet of ice – all we want is a quick way to get ice off of our windows! Let’s skip the hot water method, and instead try a simple homemade deicer. Mix two parts rubbing alcohol and one-part water in a spray bottle, and then generously apply to the affected area.

Deflate your tires in order to get better traction.

There are quite a few tire myths, but this one is important to address. Your tire is made of rubber (and other materials) and filled with air. Both air and rubber shrink in cold weather, and removing air from the tire would only compromise the structural integrity of the tire. This will cause extreme wear and tear, and possibly result in a blowout.

If traction is your main concern, you may want to consider changing your tires between seasons. Snow tires are specially designed with softer rubber and compounds that can withstand the cold temperatures of winter. They have special, wider treads that are able to push through snow and slush, and provide better traction on ice. If winter tires are not the best option for you, you may also want to look into fitted snow chains. But, basically, never operate your vehicle with tires that are not inflated to manufacturer’s specifications.

Add anti-freeze to brake fluid to prevent brake lines from freezing.

Do not add anti-freeze to the brake fluid. Your brake fluid and/or brake lines do not freeze, unless there is somehow moisture or water in the lines. Any fluid other than brake fluid in the lines can cause the entire system to fail, and might even require that the whole system be replaced. Brake fluid is designed to work at specific pressure, but it would take some very cold temperatures to make it freeze. If you do anything, make sure the brake fluid is always filled to optimum level to keep air out and reduce the chances of contamination.Image - SUV in deep snow - Winter Driving Myths

Four-wheel drive makes me unstoppable.

There is some truth to this delusion. Four wheel drive can help you get going when it’s slick on the roads, or help power you out of a ditch or snow bank. But it’s useless when it comes to stopping. So, yes, keep thinking that – four wheel drive makes you unstoppable. You won’t be able to stop any faster or better than any other vehicle out there when you hit a stretch of ice. What really matters most in that situation is inertia and good old fashioned luck.

Be prepared. Survive the winter – and check with your local AAMCO Colorado shop before doing something that sounds a little questionable. You will increase your driving safety and your chances of getting to an AAMCO where we can help with your total car care and repairs.

If you have questions about your car’s road readiness, or about car repair and maintenance topics, AAMCO Colorado can help. You can also go online and use the AAMCO Colorado Ask a Mechanic feature to submit your auto repair questions. They will be answered by a real AAMCO Colorado mechanic as soon as possible.

Other Articles About Car Maintenance & Repair

Is Your Car Heater Not Working?

How to Winterize a Car

Watch this video – see a transmission explode in slow motion.