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What are the Common Winter Car Problems and How Can You Avoid Them?

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Winter is something a lot of people look forward to but when the temperature drops too low, it can affect the people and more so on cars. People know how to protect themselves during winter by wearing the appropriate clothes, shoes, or gears but the cars can’t do that. That is why it is important that the drivers and car owners know how to protect their cars during winter to  avoid winter car problems. Proper car winter care can avoid winter car problems such as dead batteries, spark plug failures, frozen windshields, corrosion, flat tires, and a lot more. 

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Winter car problems are real and these problems have affected lots of cars during the cold season. It is for this reason that car owners need to know and understand what are the common winter car problems and how they can prevent them from happening. 


Winter Car Problems: Can cold weather cause car problems? 


Extreme cold weather has negative effects on our vehicles. It can negatively affect our vehicles internally and externally. It can even affect your vehicle’s performance. 


There are some parts or components of your car that can cause winter car problems. These are the parts that need the most care during the cold season.

  • Battery


Freezing temperatures can cause a lot of problems on your car battery.  This is because when the temperature drops, the cold slows down the chemical process inside the battery and its ability to hold a charge decreases. Old batteries tend to be more prone to battery failure in cold temperatures since they already have a declining ability to hold a charge. 


A dead or a dying battery is one of the most common causes why a lot of people are stranded on the road during extreme cold weather. If you know that your battery is old, you need to have it checked to know its condition. It will be risky to drive a battery that is weak, problematic, and is at the end of its life. If it is already at the end of its life, it is best that you have it replaced with a new one. 


Difficulty starting your vehicle or a vehicle that won’t start is one of the winter car problems and it is caused by a failing battery. This is because starting an engine can take up to twice the amount of energy in cold weather compared to starting it on a normal day. Plus, batteries lose about 35 percent of their power when the mercury drops down to 32 degrees. It could lose as much as 60 percent when it hits zero degrees. 

  • Fluids


Vehicles need fluids to lubricate its moving parts and to protect the engine. When the temperature drops, the fluids in your car can become thicker and higher in viscosity. The fluids’ ability to move or flow freely decreases as the temperature drops. Two of the vehicle’s fluids that are prone to this problem are the oil and the transmission oil. 


Although most car fluids have additives that can help prevent them from freezing, the extreme cold temperature can still thicken the oil and the transmission fluid. This makes it difficult for them to move throughout the engine to lubricate and to prevent delays and damages. Trying to use a vehicle in this state can damage internal seals since it will attempt to force the fluid through them even if it is too thick to pass through.


It is recommended that you prepare your vehicle for the cold season by having your oil changed before winter arrives. You also need to check your fluids before using your vehicle during extreme cold weather. It is also a good practice to warm up your car before driving to allow the fluids to heat up and thin out.   


Other car fluids that can actually freeze during winter are your windshield wiper fluid, engine coolant, and your antifreeze. Keep in mind that frozen engine coolants can damage the engine. That is why it is important that you have the right amount of antifreeze mixed into your engine coolant. You can invest in a kit so you can check your coolant levels regularly and add antifreeze when needed. 

  • Tires


Our vehicles have a TPMS or tire pressure monitoring system that lets the drivers know when they have one or more tires low on air by triggering the tire pressure warning light. When your tire pressure warning light suddenly lights up on a cold morning, it is not caused by punctures or faults. It is caused by your low-pressure tires.  


A low tire pressure is one of the winter car problems. It happens because cold temperatures can cause your tire pressure to drop about 1 PSI for every 10-degree drop of air temperature which means that a 30-degree drop could result in tires having pressures way below their recommended PSI. Tires with low pressures can cause poor traction, poor handling, and it can even cause tire failure. 


In order to prevent this from happening, it is important that you check your tire pressure as the temperatures start to drop. Top your tires off immediately when you find that your tires are running low pressure. 


Colder temperatures can also cause the rubber of an all season tire to harden. This can reduce the tires ability to grip on the road while you are driving and makes it more difficult to maintain control on roads. When you know that you will be experiencing cold temperatures for a while, you can swap your all season tires for winter tires as this can help lessen the hardening and avoid tire problems.

  • Wiper blades


Windshield wipers can freeze to the windshield in extreme cold temperatures. It might not be a good idea to start your vehicle and turn on your windshield wipers to clear out ice and snow in freezing since it can damage your wiper blades. It is best that you do the clearing out manually since ice and snow are heavy and it can rip apart the rubber part of the wiper. It can also cause the plastic that holds them to become brittle and eventually break. 


Make it a habit to check your windshield wipers regularly because drivers tend to only discover faulty wipers when they need to use it. If you know that you will be driving your vehicle a lot during the cold season, you can consider buying winter wiper blades that are designed specifically for winter use. Additionally, make sure that you check and clean your windshield from accumulated snow, ice, or other debris before you go for a ride.  

  • Spark plugs


One of the winter car problems is a faulty spark plug. When the temperature drops, spark plugs tend to fail – especially the old ones – because they are more susceptible to corrosion. Corrosions make it difficult for the spark plugs to produce a spark to start the vehicle. Check your spark plugs for corrosions and replace them if needed. 


Additional Notes:


  • One of the winter car problems that are experienced by many is corrosion. There are some vehicle parts that are susceptible to corrosion during winter. This is because salts are usually used on roads to clear snow and ice but salts can be more damaging to cars than the snow or ice. When the salt gets inside the car or into the engine, it can corrode the metal without the car owner knowing only to be discovered later when the corrosion has caused permanent damage. Make it a habit to wash your car, brakes, wheel wells and its undercarriage with clean water to wash all the salt away and prevent corrosion from developing.   
  • You might also notice that your vehicle becomes less efficient during cold seasons. You might also notice that your fuel consumption has increased. This is because during low temperatures, your engine uses more fuel since it compensates for the temperature drop by producing a high gas to air ratio. The increased gas to air ratio can help prevent vehicle stalling.


Winter Car Problems: How can I survive my car in the winter?


Extreme cold weather can be harsh and unrelenting on cars. It can cause many winter car problems. Then there are slippery roads and poor visibility that makes driving even more difficult during winter. Proper winter car care will be necessary to avoid winter car problems. You don’t want to be stranded in bad weather or be involved in an accident because of vehicle problems. You may not be able to control the weather, but you can control and minimize the chances of having winter car problems by preparing your car for the winter.


Here some tips and tricks you can do that can help you prepare for the winter and avoid winter car problems.

  • Prepare your wipers. 


Snow and fog can cut down your visibility while driving in winter. You can consider buying wiper blades which are not susceptible to freezing but it can be a bit expensive. As an alternative you can clean your wiper blades with a window cleaner or vinegar. You can also pop your wipers up when you park so it won’t freeze on the windshield and it will be easier for you to scrape the snow or ice. 

  • Consider using winter tires.


Winter tires have superior tread patterns that are designed and built for traction on ice and snow. Although there are all-season tires, but it tends to compromise its winter ability so you can use it during summer. 


Always check your tire pressure since it tends to fluctuate when the temperatures change. 

  • Check your battery. 


Low temperature puts a lot of stress on your car battery. To avoid winter car problems caused by a dead battery, it is recommended that you have your battery checked and have it tested. If it’s due for a replacement, then have it replaced. It can give you peace of mind knowing that you won’t be stranded somewhere because of a dead battery. 

  • Check for corrosions.


Check and inspect your car thoroughly and look for any signs of corrosion. Look for any scratches or dings that might've gone through the paint. Paint them as soon as possible. Check for corrosion on other metal parts and have them fixed before winter season comes or before the road salt starts getting in your vehicle that can cause more serious problems. Always make it a habit to wash your car with clean water after driving on icy roads during winter to prevent corrosion problems.


  • Check the fluids. 


Make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s recommended oil change schedule. You can also consider using a multi-viscosity oil that has a letter “W” in the viscosity index that indicates that it is made for winter use. Refer to your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation about the oils to use during winter. You also need to check your antifreeze and your washer fluid. 


  • Keep your fuel tank full.


Keeping your gas tank full when you are expecting winter weather is a good idea since it can keep the accumulated water from freezing in your fuel pump. Fuel consumption will also be increased as your engine compensates for the cold weather. Having a full gas tank can also help you keep the car and the heat running when you get stranded.

  • Warm up your car.


If you are not using your car that much, make sure that you drive it regularly to make sure it doesn’t break down. 


If you are starting your car on a cold morning, experts say that you should warm up your car for no more than 30 seconds before you start driving. They said that the engine will warm up faster when you are driving it. 


Winter Car Problems: Final Word


Data suggests that there are many reported crashes, accidents, and calls for help from stranded drivers during the winter season. While accidents and bad weathers can’t really be controlled, you can make your car winter-ready and avoid or minimize winter car problems that can cause such accidents and calls for help. Make it a habit to practice proper winter car care and maintenance to make sure that your car will be in its top condition. 


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