Six Ways Winter Weather Damages Your Vehicle

Winter weather can be hard on your automobile, as extremes of temperature can impact fluids and mechanical components essential to its operation. Understanding the threats harsh winter weather can pose to automobiles can help their owners take better steps to avoid problems and better diagnose problems if they arise.

suv driving in the snow

Even if your vehicle is affected by temperature-related problems, repairs need not be astronomically expensive. By correctly identifying the problem and its cause, you can use recycled auto parts if repairs and replacements are needed. Recycled auto parts meet high standards and are far less expensive than brand new parts.

The following are some common ways winter can damage your vehicle and what you can do to prevent or repair the problem:

Corrosion caused by road salt

Winter temperatures can result in a lot of ice, snow, and slush on the road, making them slippery and dangerous. Many municipal road departments around the country deal with the problem by salting the roads to improve traction. Unfortunately, salt sprayed on the roads accumulates on the undercarriages of vehicles traveling over it, contributing to corrosion.

muddy road with holes

Repeated exposure to salt can cause rust. Because many important parts of the car are located on its underside—hydraulic brakes, exhaust, muffler—this can cause expensive problems. If rust is severe enough, it can also cause damage to the frame of the vehicle.

Drivers who travel on salted roads during the winter months can take steps to mitigate the damage that repeated exposure to salt can cause. Before winter begins, take your automobile to a collision shop and have the undercarriage treated with an oil-solution underspray to head off corrosion. Regular washing of the vehicle’s undercarriage during the winter months can also help.

During the winter months, you should have your vehicle inspected at least once by a mechanic to ensure no corrosion-related damage has occurred. This damage can be tough to spot, so an expert opinion is very helpful.

If you do have parts that are damaged and need replacing, using recycled auto parts can help you save significantly on replacement parts costs. Be sure to purchase used auto body parts from a reputable dealer.

Belts and hoses

mechanic working on car engine

Cold weather causes rubber to harden and become less pliable. Extreme cold temperature can also make rubber more likely to develop holes and cracks. Your vehicle’s belts and hoses are essential to its operation and, if they fail or break, it can render your vehicle inoperable. Older belts and hoses are more susceptible to damage than newer components.

Before winter starts, be sure to give your vehicle’s belts and hoses a thorough inspection. Check for cracking, bulging, sponginess, or swelling and replace components as needed. Being proactive in replacing these components is important, as a belt break while a vehicle is in operation can result in severe damage.

Should your vehicle be damaged by a belt break, using recycled auto parts can mitigate some of the cost. Recycled auto parts are less expensive than brand new auto parts, but are reliable.

adding oil to engine

Fluid problems

Cold winter temperatures can cause fluids that your vehicle relies on to function to thicken. Oil, antifreeze, power steering, brake, and transmission fluid can all thicken during cold weather, reducing their effectiveness. Transmission fluid can be especially problematic, as it must flow quickly to be effective. Having fluids changed can help, as can garaging your vehicle during the winter months. Allowing your vehicle to warm up before driving it can also help prevent fluid problems.

Dead battery

Cold weather can cause your vehicle’s battery to die. Even brand-new batteries can die under the right circumstances. Cold weather reduces the capacity of batteries and, in cold temperatures, more electricity is required to start an engine. Also, drivers use more accessories such as heaters and windshield wipers during the cold winter months, placing more demands on vehicle batteries.

Older batteries are more likely to die than new ones, so it’s important to change your battery at least once every three years. The build-up of corrosion around connector posts can also lead to battery death, so keep those connectors clean. If possible, garage your car during the winter to protect the battery against extreme cold temperatures.

Tire pressure

Keeping adequate air pressure in your tires is important to their longevity and can help you maintain your vehicle’s fuel economy. Tires are designed to operate with a certain amount of air pressure. When air pressure is low, it can lead to uneven wear on your tires, making them wear out quicker than if they were properly inflated. Low pressure can also make a blow-out likely. As blow-outs often cause motor vehicle crashes, it’s highly advisable to do all you can to ensure your car tires are in good shape.

Underinflated tires will have a big impact on your vehicle’s fuel economy. As seen in Business Insider, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that gas mileage drops .04 percent for every 1 PSI drop in pressure in all four tires. If your tires are significantly under-inflated, that can add up to quite a bit of wasted fuel over time.

engine parts

You really have to watch your air pressure in the winter months, as colder temperatures cause air molecules to contract, causing the pressure within your tires to drop. During the winter months, check your tires’ air pressure frequently and add more air as needed.

Frozen gas lines

When temperatures change, it can cause condensation to build up and then freeze in your gas lines. Frozen gas lines can prevent gas from flowing to your engine, making it inoperable.

One way you can prevent your gas lines from freezing up is by keeping your gas tank at least half full throughout the winter. Keeping the gas tank at least half full will prevent too much air from being present in the tank. When there’s too much air in your gas tank, moisture in that air can freeze and clog your gas line. Reducing the amount of air present keeps that from happening.

If your vehicle won’t start when it’s cold, frozen gas lines are a common culprit. Frozen gas lines can also result in your engine turning over but failing to start. If you are driving in very cold temperatures, your gas lines may freeze even though the vehicle is producing heat. Common signs of this are sputtering or stopping while the vehicle is in operation.
tires in the snow

Frozen gas lines will thaw when the weather gets warmer, but if you’re running late for work or if cold weather has set in for a few days, that’s not much help. Keeping your gas tank half full will help reduce the chance that your gas lines freeze up. You can also purchase fuel additives that will prevent your fuel lines from clogging in cold temperatures.

Regular inspection and maintenance is key to ensuring that winter temperatures and conditions don’t cause expensive damage to your vehicle. Be sure to follow your vehicle’s maintenance schedule and mark important maintenance tasks on your calendar to ensure they are performed.

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Bessler Auto Parts has an excellent track record of helping customers find the parts they need, and it meets high professional standards. The company is a member of Team PRP, the Automotive Recyclers Association, Kentucky Auto and Truck Recyclers Association, and United Recyclers Group. For recycled auto parts you can trust, connect with Bessler Auto Parts today.