What Winter Does to Your Car – And How to Stop the Damage

Winter can be just as hard on your car as summer can be. Cold, harsh weather, and even the dryness that comes along with being parked in the garage, can all damage not just the exterior paint of your car, but the underlying metal components, too. In our part of the country, winter can start in early November and continue on well into what should be spring. How can you prevent your car from being damaged by a punishing winter? Here are some of the ways winter can damage your car and what you can do to prevent that damage:

Ice Melt and Your Paint

Winter is usually when your car gets its dirtiest, and when there are the fewest number of days when it is safe to wash your car. Ice melt, which helps to keep our roads safe to drive, can be caustic to your car’s paint job, if not routinely washed away. Many counties have stopped using ice melt on the roads, as it eats not just at the road, but also at your car.

Ice melt, sometimes called brine, is usually a mixture of water, salt, and magnesium chloride. It’s widely used because it is really great at lowering the freezing point of water, making it harder for water to freeze on the roads, and eliminating ice and snow. The mixture is highly acidic, however, and has been routinely pointed to as one of the major causes of road wear.

As often as there is a warm day, take advantage of the warmth, run out, and get a professional car wash—one where they spray the underbody of the car. Washing away the brine as quickly as possible is the best way to prevent it from corroding your paint.

Rock Salt and Your Car

Rock salt, like ice melt, can be very damaging to your car, in a variety of different ways. Rock salt can even be more damaging to your paint, as it doesn’t just get in chips and dents to speed up the rusting process and eat away at your paint, it can actually cause the chips in your paint.

Salt is also used to clear roads of ice and snow, and because it can provide traction while also keeping the road clear, it is preferred in some communities. The salt is very corrosive. It can ruin asphalt just as readily as it ruins your car’s paint and metal components, for the same reasons that here by the Atlantic Ocean, our cars rust faster than those of people who live far away from the ocean.

Like ice melt, the best way to deal with rock salt is to wash your car as often as possible, in a car wash that either automatically cleans the undercarriage of the car or gives you the option of doing it yourself. Getting rid of as much of the salt residue as possible is the only way to prevent the rust that will inevitably follow salt deposits.

Cold Weather

Can cold weather really damage your car? Yes, it can. Most of our cars have a myriad of rubber components, ranging from the windshield wipers to vital belts and hoses around the engine. Rubber can be seriously affected by cold weather (as it can by hot weather). Cold stiffens rubber, making it less pliable, and therefore, less functional and more likely to rip, tear, or break. Many people will notice that their windshield wipers are less effective during the winter. This is because the cold rubber cannot conform to the shape of the windshield.

The newer the rubber components are, the less affected they will be by colder weather. That doesn’t mean that you need new hoses and belts every single winter, it just means that you should have these components checked out before cold weather sets in. If they are already stiff and cracked, they are probably not going to be helped by colder weather.

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Cold weather can also be damaging to the metal parts of your car. If any of them have cracks that can be invaded by water, it is possible that expanding freezing water can turn those cracks into full failures. Regular maintenance can help to prevent this.

Something else that cold weather does to your car? Kills your battery. An old battery that may have been functioning perfectly fine in the winter can die overnight in the freezing cold of winter. There really is no way to prevent this, and at some point, not even jumping the battery will revive it. Testing your battery before cold weather sets in can be a good way to know whether or not it is going to make it through frosty weather. Buying and replacing a battery is one of the easier repairs and is something that most car owners are capable of doing on their own.

Did you know that it can actually get cold enough to freeze the gasoline in your tank? It might not get cold enough this year to freeze the gasoline itself, but if there is any water in your gas tank, that could definitely freeze and cause you problems. A good way to avoid either of these two issues is to keep your tank more than half full. Not only will this prevent you from running out of gas if you are trapped in a long line of slow-moving cars on the interstate, it will also help to prevent any freezing liquids from damaging your gas tank.

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