How the Extreme Cold Affects Your Vehicle
Extreme Temps are Hard on Vehicles
Right now it’s the middle of January and it’s over 40 degrees outside. A bit higher than normal, and a lot higher than what it has been in past Januarys. But here in Billings, Montana, we do see temperatures drop to below zero a few times throughout the winter. We bundle up, and we go about our way knowing that it’s usually only a week or two later that the temperatures jump back up. It’s not like we are in Yakutsk or anything.
When the temps drop, however, your vehicle doesn’t really like it. Here is what areas are affected with sub-zero temperatures.
We don’t often think of electricity slowing down in colder weather. And it’s true, the current itself moves just as fast. But there are other components of the vehicle that aren’t quite up to snuff in the cold.
Batteries don’t crank as powerfully when it’s really cold out. In fact, if you have a battery over 3 years old, you might only get about 50% power from it when the temp drops below that zero mark. It might be worthwhile to replace it so you’re not stranded.
Most modern vehicles have some sort of screen in them. A GPS navigation, a control panel (like the Tesla screens), or even the display on a radio. These LCD displays slow down as the liquid inside of them gets a bit sluggish. Fortunately, they aren’t going to break, they just will take a while until the vehicle warms to be back up to par.
Oil, Gas, and Other Fluids
The fluids are one of the most affected areas of the vehicle in the cold. And we can see that by putting a glass of water outside and seeing how the molecules change.
Oil gets thicker in the cold. If you don’t have the right oil in your vehicle, it can actually get really hard for the vehicle to circulate it and cause parts to wear out. You might want to switch to a winter weight oil (0w30 or 5w30) to make sure you don’t have problems.
Fuel doesn’t freeze until you hit -100 degrees; a temp not seen here on earth. But that doesn’t mean your fuel is free of issues in the winter. Any moisture trapped in your tank can ice up and clog the lines. Prevent this by not letting your tank go below half empty (or half full if you’re an optimist). Don’t be surprised if you see a big drop in fuel economy when it’s cold out.
Old antifreeze doesn’t work as well as new antifreeze. If it has been a while since your last tune-up, you might want to get this checked. If it goes bad, you could have a cracked engine block, and a vehicle that has some hefty repairs coming.
Glass and Auto Body
Things get brittle in the extreme cold. While some components aren’t as highly affected as others, it’s important to be careful.
Glass will get frosted over, and you may be tempted to warm it quickly so it can defrost. But be careful, because sudden temperature changes will cause cracks. Even blasting the hot air from the defroster could be enough to crack the windshield. If you must, use a commercial deicer that’s designed for glass.
Most of your vehicle’s paint and metal will be fine barring any extreme impacts. But in the cold, the metal and paint can crack instead of flex.
Plastics are very brittle when it’s cold. They won’t bend and flex, but they will crack. Take care that you don’t put too much pressure on plastic components.
While the rubber in your tires will be fine, the air changes in the cold. If you filled them with air at 50 degrees, they will be 7 pounds under-inflated at -20 degrees. PSI drops 1 pound for every 10 degrees.
Big Sky Collision Center Fixes Vehicles Indoors
If you do get in a wreck, and you need your rig repaired, don’t worry! We have state of the art indoor facilities that allow us to work on your vehicle at a comfortable temperature that is safe for your rig. No worries about parts cracking or not fitting properly.
In need of auto body repairs? Give us a call at 406-259-6328 and we can get you scheduled.