How Your Car Reacts to Extreme Cold

truck covered in frost

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When it’s cold outside, you put on a jacket. Maybe you wrap a scarf around your neck. It’s remarkable how much the human form will endure with just a little insulation. Unfortunately for your car, wrapping a blanket around it won’t keep you from getting stranded on an extremely cold morning if you haven’t taken the right precautions.

If you own a newer vehicle and have experience living in cold climates, you’re probably aware that today’s cars handle inclement weather much better than cars of old. With that said, you should still understand how your car’s operation changes when you’re consistently using it in a cold climate.

What Changes When It’s Cold Outside?

The steps you take to keep your car performing when it’s cold out make more sense when you understand what motivates them.

As the mercury drops, the oil in your engine thickens, and accessories like your stereo and fans require more power to operate. That means an additional load on your battery each time you start the car and prolonged energy use as you drive.

Electrical components aren’t the only thing that changes when it cools down. Ice and snow reduce traction, which can make driving dangerous, and harsh weather conditions can even take a toll on your car’s exterior.

Fighting the Effect of Extreme Cold on Cars

What can you do to defend your car from the elements? One simple solution is to keep it in a properly insulated and sealed garage. While it won’t make the roads less slick, storing your car in a garage will keep your battery and fluids warmer, reducing the chance of failures and prolonging battery life. For the best results, use a trickle charger to keep your battery close to fully charged, which will help prevent it from freezing.

You will also avoid the harsh effects of rain, snow and even hail on your car’s finish. While a little rainfall can have a nice cleaning effect, these elements will eventually wear down any protective finish on your car’s paint and could lead to pitting. Driving on wet, salted roads can even lead to rust, so parking inside when you can is a good way to let your car’s undercarriage dry out.

Weather Hazards

Before you make it home you have to navigate slippery roads, and for that, there’s no better solution than a proper set of tires. Foul-weather tires range from all-season radials with siping to cope with a little water to fully studded snow tires. Talk to your tire shop to find out which style is best for your area.

Just in case your car does die, it’s a good idea to keep a set of jumper cables and an emergency kit with water, food, a space blanket and flares stored in your car. For the utmost in reassurance, you can join a car club that provides roadside assistance, such as AAA.

It would be nice if we could all enjoy California sunshine year-round and not deal with these annoyances. Just remember this: Toughing it out in the extreme cold builds character.