Matthew Carlson, February 16 2021

How Severe Cold Affects Your Car and What To Do About It

It's that time of year when it is so bitterly freezing that even a 30-degree day can feel like a balmy respite. Temperatures plummet into the negative digits, wind chills are painful and dangerous. It's cold outside.

How can the cold affect cars and trucks in these extreme temps? Here we discuss some of those issues as well as some of the solutions we offer here at Fix It Forward Auto Care.

Problem: You Drive an EV

Solution: Granted, driving the EV isn't the problem, but cold weather does impact an EV's efficiency and performance. Low temperatures slow the battery chemistry, resulting in less energy for acceleration. It takes more energy to keep the battery at an efficient operating temperature, and a little more energy still to keep the cabin (and you) warm. All of this results in less efficient performance, which means you might not have as much range as you think. That's an important consideration if you don't want to end up walking in the cold.

Problem: Deflated Tires

As the air in your tires gets colder, it contracts and has less pressure. Tires correspondingly become underinflated.

Solution: Check your tire pressure more often than you normally would. Fix It Forward Auto Care recommends doing so once a week. You might think a little deflation provides better traction, but tire experts caution against running tires below manufacturers' recommended pressure, as that can cause uneven or unsafe tread wear. Getting winter tires is always a good idea with our inclement weather.

Problem: Dead Battery

Winter is especially hard on batteries. If your car won't start in the extreme cold, one of the most likely problems is that the battery is dead.

Solution: The good news is that it can be an easy fix: jumper cables are not hard to use. But to avoid a dead battery altogether, we suggests keeping it's connections clean, tight, and free of corrosion. We also recommend replacing batteries that are more than three years old.

Problem: Thick Oil

As it gets colder, oil gets thicker. At about 20 degrees below zero, oil gets so thick that the engine's oil pump struggles even to pick it up and circulate it. The viscosity just goes way up, and it's like trying to pour molasses.

Solution: We recommend switching to low-viscosity oil in the winter. Synthetic oils will help out a great deal, also. Don't forget to read your owner's manual, as the manufacturer may specify an oil weight for cold-weather operation. Synthetics can provide better startup performance and flow at temperatures down to -40 Fahrenheit.

Problem: Ice in the Fuel Line

Water moisture in the gas lines can become icy. In regard to fuel, one of the things we do see, if there's any water content inside the fuel tank, that water can freeze and clog fuel pickup.

Solution: Keep your tank at least half full.

Problem: Antifreeze Not Living Up to Its Name

Engine coolant, a.k.a. antifreeze, will not be as effective at protecting your engine against the elements if it's old or has an improper ratio of coolant to water.

Solution: We suggest to not add 100 percent antifreeze because it actually has a higher freeze point when not mixed with water. It's a good idea to have engine coolant that is made for colder climates. Your car's coolant should be flushed and refilled at least every two years.

Vehicles need extra attention when temperatures drop below zero. A cold weather inspection at Fix It Forward Auto Care is a small but important step to avoid the aggravation and unexpected and potentially dangerous cost of a breakdown in freezing weather.

South Fargo - 6219 53rd Ave. S. - 701-781-6800

Moorhead - 2620 2nd Ave. N, - 218-284-3200

Fix It Forward Auto Care. The name you trust for car repair.

Written by

Matthew Carlson

Previous Winterizing Tips.