If the cold weather itself isn’t bad enough for people, winter time can also wreak havoc on your vehicle. Any number of odd or strange problems might start occurring when the temperatures drop low enough. Unless you are familiar with what those are, you may be taken by surprise the next time you drive your car. Read on to find out what typical winter car problems you should be aware of in order to better protect you and your vehicle this season.
You may be surprised to find out, but your battery can actually freeze to the point where your vehicle will not start up. Trouble begins around 30 degrees and becomes worse the colder it gets. This will usually seem as though the battery is dead or dying. Typically this is due to a lack of cold cranking amps being delivered. You should notice on your battery a cold crank amps sticker which informs you of the total wattage, if it’s not high enough, and the temperature is continually low, you may need a new battery with higher cold cranking amps.
You can bring the battery indoors so it warms up and unfreezes, but this takes quite some time. You can also purchase heated battery blankets which will warm the batter up. These can be unplugged and left on the battery while you drive and reconnected when you park again. These help to keep the battery warm overnight or for extended periods of time while the vehicle is off and stationary.
Tire Tread and Pressure
Without a doubt people understand that having all-season or winter tires is needed when driving on snow and ice. But even with proper tires you may not have adequate traction for the road. If conditions are bad enough, snow and ice can be compacted between the tires treads, essentially negating their usefulness. Also, if your tires treads are balding, your traction will be severely inhibited and this should be a major safety concern for any driver.
Beyond tire tread, tire pressure should also be checked and filled to proper levels. As a note, for every 10 degrees the temperature drops, tire pressure will lose 1 PSI. If you are driving on tires with low pressure, the ratio of tread touch to road is reduced. This means more slick rubber is touching the road than treaded tire, and as such traction is severely limited. Conversely, filling the tires up too much has a similar effect where less tread touches the road and also puts extra strain on the tire reducing its overall life span. Check your tires and be sure everything is in order before you brave the elements on the road.
Sufficient Radiator Anti-Freeze
They don’t call it anti-freeze for nothing. Your radiator needs radiator fluid while it drives to keep the rest of your engine functioning properly. The radiator fluid has coolant in it to ensure the engine doesn’t overheat, but anti-freeze is also needed to ensure the coolant doesn’t freeze. If you have excessive water in the fluid, rather than anti-freeze, the water may freeze and cause a great deal of damage to your engine. Remember, water expands when it freezes and anything containing it will be strained by that pressure. If the water in your radiator fluid freezes, it can actually result in any number of problems occurring in your engine, including cracking your engine block.
Transmission fluid is needed to keep the transmission lubricated, but once temperatures reach 35 degrees and below, the fluid begins to thicken and doesn’t perform as well as it should. Typically this will be noticeable as the transmission will have a hard time changing gears and some gears may even slip. If it becomes really cold, the fluid may become so thick the transmission won’t work at all. The only remedy for this is to allow your vehicle time to warm up. This will allow the fluid to heat up where it can then be distributed throughout the transmission properly.
Weakening Spark Plug
Spark plugs also have a difficult time sparking once temperatures are low enough, typically 40 degrees and lower. This is especially true for older or damaged spark plugs. If this is occurring to you, you will notice a reduction in your vehicles performance. Essentially, if a spark plug isn’t igniting one of your four engine cylinders, only three cylinders will be functioning. This means your engines overall power will be reduced by 25%, and if you continue to drive with power plugs failing, you can cause severe damage to engine over time.
Finally perhaps one of the most overlooked, underestimated, and underappreciated components of your vehicle, the windshield wiper. When they are functioning properly, you rarely think how wonderful they are. But once they start failing, you’ll soon be cursing in rage and frustration. You can dramatically increase the life of your windshield wipers in the winter by properly clearing your windshield off prior to using them. Forcing them to move tremendous amount of snow and chip away at the ice while the defrost is on greatly increases the wear and tear they face. If ice is heavy enough, you can even break or damage the wiper transmission motor. Furthermore, if damage to the blade has occurred and the rubber has been torn or ripped away, your windshield may develop scratches where the rubber is missing on the blade.
Hopefully these tips helped the reader to be mindful of winter problems that may arise with their vehicle. Just remember that extra caution and care needs to be taken with maintaining your vehicles in winter months and even more so when driving. Here’s to hoping everyone stays safe on the roads this season… because it has been an especially cold one thus far.
At AAMCO Colorado, we want you to enjoy driving as much as possible. More importantly though we want you to be safe on the road. If you live in Colorado and need a Transmission Service, Radiator Repair, Brake Repair, or any other Auto Repair, please contact your local AAMCO Colorado Location to schedule an appointment. Also be sure to see how we can help winterize your vehicle!