Freezing Temperatures

Freezing temperatures affect cars negatively in many ways. Consider some of the following:

Windshield glass will be more vulnerable to chipping and breakages 

Never use hot water to clear a frosted windshield, as it can cause the glass to crack.  Alcohol sprays, such as Prestone Heat, Frost Buster, or ordinary de icer sprays are safer and quicker to reduce frost or ice.  Also, blasting mega-hot defroster air on the windshield can cause damage.

Your engine block will be more vulnerable to cracking due to frozen coolant

Freeze-up protection can be checked with an inexpensive float-ball anti-freeze tester.  Use the correct anti-freeze type and mix when topping up.  Don’t add plain water alone, as it will dilute the current radiator mixture and lessen freeze-up protection.  Don’t mix regular (green 2-year) antifreeze with long life (yellow or reddish, five year) coolant, since it reverts to the shorter lifespan when mixed with the green.  The only exception would be is if the bottle of green is marked compatible with any antifreeze.

All season tire will harden

The rubber compound in all-season tires hardens when temps drop blow 47F causing them to have less effective gripping ability, whereas winter snow tires stay soft and stick to the road in sub-zero temperatures.  Also, snow tires have tread that is better designed to remove snow and slush from their grooves, unlike all-season tire tread which is a compromise at best for traction in snow.

Road salt loses its grip  

According to the Federal Dept. of Transportation, road salt loses efficiency below -7F and is almost totally ineffective below -10F, so always drive with extra care in severe cold.

Motor oil thickens when it is cold

The motor is impacted when it gets cold making it harder for the engine to turn over on the first start of the day.  This is further exacerbated by the fact battery output drops by about half at 64F.  it also declines gradually with age, so an older battery that is fine in warm weather might fail in the cold.  Thinner oil grades, an engine block heater, or battery may aid cold weather starting.

Older vehicles take longer to warm up

Older vehicles didn’t provide cabin heat until the engine had warmed up enough to open the cooling system thermostat, which often took 20 minutes or more to happen.  Today’s vehicles have various ways of creating heat for the interior almost immediately, but this will delay the engine warming up to the proper temperature and cost you some fuel but frankly, I would rather be warm.

Your engine runs the least efficiently during the first 20 minutes or so after a cold start-up, before it warms up to its normal operating temperature.  During this time, it runs rich (high gasoline-to-air ratio to prevent stalling, while this is happening water vapor builds up in the motor oil and the exhaust system. Overall fuel consumption will be higher in winter than summer due to this issue with cold weather idling.

Accumulated water vapor 

With repeated short trips in cold weather, the vehicle may never warm sufficiently to burn off accumulated water vapor and you may notice a white sludge on your dipstick or in the oil cap.  Also, you may develop rust in your exhaust system, causing it to need replacement prematurely.

Protect Your Car this Winter with AAA Roadside Assistance

Have your vehicle checked before it gets cold, the oil changed, and all-important fluids and tires checked for their condition, if needed have them changed or replaced.  Your local AAA Approved Auto Repair facility can help you with all these needs.  Find them listed at or email

You can also protect your car in the winter and drive with peace of mind by signing up for a AAA membership today and taking advantage of roadside assistance. 


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Driving- Winter Temperature
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