A blast of lower-than-average weather welcomed us here on the East coast into 2018. While the first snow of the year brings to mind sledding and school closings for some, for car owners it can also bring major frustration. Here are just five of the issues you might find with your vehicle this winter:
1. Your windshield cleaning equipment will fail
Winter weather takes a huge toll on windshield wipers. The blades get torn and the wiper transmissions will break when temperatures get lower than the freezing point of the fluid. The cold makes the rubber components more brittle and the weight of ice and snow can cause them to snap.
You may have seen people put their wipers up in preparation for a large snowfall. This is an excellent idea and a good way to prepare. Also make sure to clear all snow and ice out of your windshield gear before driving, so as not to suddenly need to use the wipers and have them locked by ice.
2. (Almost) all of your fluids will thicken
In general, fluids thicken as they get colder. This is especially true with conventional oils, which often contain paraffins. Paraffins crystallize in colder temperatures and make the problem even worse. In cold weather, fluids will move more slowly throughout the system and often fail to do the job they are supposed to.
Make sure to check your fluids regularly during cold spells. This is especially important for transmission fluid, which must flow quickly in order to be effective.
3. Your tires will lose pressure
As a general rule of thumb, most tires lose about one pound per square inch (PSI) with every drop of 10 degrees Farenheit. This means if your tire is fully inflated at 70 F, it will be four PSI under-inflated at 30 F. This can dramatically reduce the performance of your tires and cause a serious safety hazard, especially if icy or snowy roads are combined with the cold weather.
Even if your area doesn’t get much snow or ice, under-inflated tires still present a serious road hazard. Check them often and remember the simple calculation in your head to add air when appropriate.
4. Your battery might die unexpectedly
Extreme cold (anything lower than 30 degrees) can pull voltage from a battery, making it harder to start or function normally.
Batteries in good condition should be fine, especially in areas with moderate climates. However, a battery that is already weak may have trouble making it through an extremely cold night. Get your battery tested at least once every winter to ensure you don’t walk into that surprise.
5. Your spark plug might not work as well
As you may have noticed, cars start much harder in the winter. While a worn-out plug or old wiring may start perfectly fine in warm weather, the cold will severely impact the car’s ability to start in the winter.
If your car starts slowly in warmer weather, look to change the spark plug or wiring before freezing temperatures hit.
6. Your air shocks might start to fail
Cold air and moisture are brutal on rubber, and unfortunately that’s likely what the air bags in your air suspension are made of. Combine the brittling effect of cold air and frozen moisture on rubber with the task of supporting the weight of your vehicle and you have a recipe for air leaks.
Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do in the way of preparation. However, if winter weather has your car riding low or uneven, consider ditching that troublesome air suspension for a coil suspension that won’t fail in the cold. Strutmasters makes conversion kits for almost all makes of vehicles. Check the website to search for your car here.
All in all, while the cold and ice and snow can be rough on cars, a little prevention can ensure that you’ll make it through the winter relatively unscathed.