Looks like Punxsutawney Phil got it right this year when he predicted that there was more winter to come. While we may not beat the current record for Oklahoma of 13 days below zero, February sure looks set to make a valiant effort for such. While we have broached such topics as safety tips for ice storms or driving on slick roads, we would be remiss if we didn’t share with you some important things about keeping your car running during this freezing weather. After all, the last thing you want to deal with is getting stranded somewhere because your car doesn’t want to start in the cold. Here are 9 critical items for keeping your car running in cold weather or things to check if your vehicle will not start.
If your vehicle isn’t wanting to start, there is a good chance a dead battery is a culprit. The winter chills can be extremely hard on your vehicle’s battery. Ideally, you checked to ensure your battery was fully charged and in good working condition before the temps dropped to extremes. If you didn’t and now find yourself stranded in your driveway, know that there is a simple solution assuming you have a set of jumper cables. To avoid such issues in the future, be sure to keep your battery connections clean and free of corrosion. Additionally, you make a habit of replacing your vehicle battery every 3 years. Also, consider purchasing battery warmers to keep around for winter extremes. Battery warmers can be found at most auto parts stores or online.
Ice in the Fuel Line:
While you have probably heard talk of people having ice in their fuel line don’t worry about your gasoline freezing, unless maybe you drive a car in Antarctica you have no need to worry about your gas freezing. That being said, the moisture in your gas lines can frost or freeze. When this happens, it can clog the fuel pickup and prevent your car from starting. The best way to prevent this from happening in the future is to keep your gas tank at least half full. So, what can you do once your fuel line is clogged due to moisture? Wait for the temperatures to improve is your best bet.
Antifreeze is Freezing:
In extreme temps, your vehicle’s coolant (antifreeze) will not be as effective if it is old or has not been properly mixed with water at the correct ratio. While it is not likely that your antifreeze is completely frozen, it could be potentially slushy and thus not protect your vehicle’s engine from overheating if you are driving. This could leave you stranded on the side of the road with an overheated vehicle. Assuming your block or your radiator is not cracked, it is best to let temperatures warm back up above freezing before attempting to drive again. If you do not, you run the risk of damage to your engine. If waiting it out is not feasible, buckets of hot water poured on the radiator and hoses may be helpful. Remember to flush & refill your radiator at least every 2 years.
Old Serpentine Belts:
When old or worn belts get cold, they become brittle and don’t bend well. This makes them more prone to breaking, which of course will leave you stranded at best or could destroy your engine or other components at worst. It is best to make sure your belts are in good condition, period.
Sluggish LCD Screens:
If your vehicle has a liquid crystal display (LCD) screen, such as an LCD display module or infotainment screen, you might notice it is acting lethargic and slow when your car has been sitting in the extreme cold for a while. There is not much you can do to resolve this issue besides waiting on your vehicle to warm up.
Flat or Deflated Tires:
During winter weather, the air in your tires gets colder which causes it to contract. This contraction affects the inflation pressure in your tires, deflating them. Driving on tires like this can not only make for unsafe driving conditions, but it can also cause damage to your tires or wheels.
Check your tire pressure and air up your tires before heading out on the road, this should become a weekly habit during the winter months.
Wiper Blade Not Working Well:
While wiper blades not working isn’t an issue that will keep you from starting your vehicle, it certainly can create some driving visibility issues. The pressure of the snow and ice can make your windshield wipers work less effectively, while the below-zero temps can aid in causing the rubber blades to become brittle and tear. Additionally, your washer fluid and washer fluid lines can freeze. Moreover, when the temperatures are freezing and there is a lot of moisture in the air, it is possible for your windshield wipers to freeze up altogether or stick to your windshield. We would suggest getting heavy-duty wiper blades that are made for extreme temperatures as well as some washer fluid that is designed for winter use.
Windshield Frozen on the Inside:
If you have cracks or chips in your windshield, cold weather may cause more damage to those already blemished areas. In fact, a crack is likely to spread a lot due to the contracting of the glass from the freezing temps. Moreover, if you aren’t using your automobile’s defrosting, it is possible that your breath is creating condensation that is freezing on the windshield. Make sure your heater and defrost are working properly and get them fixed asap if they are not.
So thick oil may not prevent your vehicle from starting or even getting from point A to point B, however; it should still be a consideration, and here is why. Your vehicle’s oil is the lifeblood that keeps your engine and components lubricated and working more smoothly. Winter’s cold bite can make your oil get thicker. When your oil is thick, like butter or molasses, it puts a heavy strain on your engine’s oil pump, making it difficult for the oil to be circulated as it should. This is one of the reasons why you should be getting regular oil changes, as well as changing your oil viscosity based on the season. Synthetic oils are also great because they are not affected quite as much by weather extremities.
While we wish we would have shared this information sooner, who knew we were going to have a weeklong stint of ice, snow, and below-freezing temperatures. That is one thing about Oklahoma weather, the most predictable thing about it is that it’s unpredictable. At any rate, we know many of you have not yet ventured out of your homes so perhaps this will be useful information before you head out tomorrow or this weekend. As always, if you find you have needed an honest, quality mechanic, OKC Auto Works has ASE certified and experienced mechanics that can help get your car back to its prime running condition. Additionally, our body shop is second to none if you find yourself sliding into an unfortunate fender bender. (405) 634-8200.