8 Ways Extreme Cold Can Damage Your Car

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Man looking through an icy window in his car
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As we’ve reported, hot weather can take a nasty toll on your car. But don’t relax now that things have turned cooler.

Unfortunately, extreme cold can be just as damaging to your vehicle.

Here are some of the ways the bone-chilling temps can put your car at risk — and what you can do to prevent such damage.

1. It saps your battery

Man next to broken-down car in winter
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Old Man Winter makes it more difficult for your car battery to give off enough of a charge to turn over when you try to start the vehicle.

Aging batteries are especially prone to this problem. Get your battery tested, and if it is past its prime, consider replacing it.

Car battery warmers also are available to reduce the cold’s impact on your vehicle.

2. It busts your belts

woman with broken down car calling for roadside assistance
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Older belts that are worn may fail to bend properly or snap in the cold. That can lead to a breakdown that leaves you stranded on an icy day.

You can significantly reduce the odds of such an unfortunate turn of events by making sure your belts are in good shape before it gets too cold.

3. It freezes your fluids

Man pouring antifreeze into a car
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Cold weather causes antifreeze, motor oil and transmission fluid to thicken and move more slowly through the car.

In the short run, this might make it more difficult to start your car or to shift gears. Over time, you might see damage to hoses.

One thing that can help is to switch to a lower-viscosity motor oil during winter.

4. It cracks your windshield

Cracked windshield in the cold
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If you have a small crack in your windshield, a cold snap can make it worse because it causes the glass to shrink.

So get that windshield replaced before driving in harsh winter weather.

5. It drops your tire pressure

Low tire pressure in winter
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Cold air causes your tires to contract, robbing them of pressure and leading to underinflation. This can result in uneven — and potentially dangerous — wear.

So check your tire pressure a bit more frequently during the winter. You might also want to consider installing winter tires, which should stand up better to the elements.

6. It corrodes your car’s exterior

Car driving on an icy road
Henrik A. Jonsson / Shutterstock.com

When the snow flies, road crews drop salt to make driving safer. But that salt gets everywhere on and in your car.

Not only can it lead to corrosion and rust of the exterior if it isn’t cleaned off, but it can damage fuel and brake lines.

Once the skies clear, run your car through a wash to get rid of that salt.

7. It snaps your wipers

Foggy car windshield
dies-irae / Shutterstock.com

A deep arctic blast can make the rubber on windshield wipers brittle, leading to cracks.

This is especially likely to happen to worn, aging wipers. Installing new blades before winter can help. In fact, wiper blades should be replaced every six months, according to the Car Care Council.

8. It ices up the fuel line

Woman standing by broken-down car in winter
Wstockstudio / Shutterstock.com

When water moisture and brutally cold air mix, it can spell big trouble for your vehicle’s fuel line. At best, you might end up with a bumpy ride. But it’s also possible you won’t be able to start the car at all.

One good way to try to prevent this from happening is to make sure you always keep your gas tank at least half-full during winter.

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