How Does The Cold Weather Affect Your Car?

Cold Weather And Your Car

woman-with-car-in-the-snow

Just as you may find it difficult to get out of bed when it’s cold and dark, your car can struggle to get going too. You might be thinking, what harm can a bit of frost do? But actually, the cold weather can really affect your vehicle in a number of ways, from the battery power to tyre pressure.

If your car is struggling to start on those colder mornings and you want to find out why, read on to discover five ways the cold weather can affect the average Irish car.

1. Car battery

Battery replacement requests rise by nearly 150 per cent in winter compared to summer, and so if your car won’t start, it’s likely to be an issue with the battery.

Can cold weather affect your car battery?

Car batteries are much more susceptible to faults in the cold weather. This is because the reduced temperatures can slow down the chemical reactions that a battery relies on in order to work effectively. A battery is required to power the starter motor which in turn powers up the engine. Therefore, with a flat or low battery, there may not be enough power to start the car up at all. Electric vehicles are particularly prone to drained batteries in cold weather, and data from Motorcheck.ie suggests that their range could be cut in half.

How to warm up a car battery in cold weather

Once your battery is cold, it can be difficult to warm it up quickly to get your car going. However, there may be some preventative measures that you can take so that you don’t have any issues starting your car in the morning.

You could try parking your car in a more sheltered spot, such as a garage or down the side of the house if you have space. This will protect it from the cold wind and may help to keep your battery a little bit warmer. If neither of these options are viable, you could invest in a car cover or even a battery blanket that will help to protect it.

Older batteries should be replaced, so if you’ve had your battery for around five years or more, it may be time for a new one.

You should avoid putting too much pressure on your car battery in winter. Give yourself plenty of time to set off in the morning, allowing for time to turn the ignition on and wait a couple of minutes before starting the engine.

If you do have an issue with your car battery during the winter, make sure you contact your insurer as many car insurance providers such as Chill Insurance include breakdown assist with standard policies.

2. Corrosion

During cold spells, you’re more likely to see gritters out and about, spreading salt on local roads and highways across Ireland. This is done to ensure that all roads remain safe, and the salt can prevent skidding when it’s icy or snowing. While the grit can help to prevent an accident, it can be very corrosive to your car’s paintwork. Corrosion involves the transfer of electrons from one material to another. Salt can speed up this process, meaning that the paint is more likely to corrode and rust.

3. Tyre pressure

Believe it or not, the temperature can have a big impact on your tyre pressure. This is because the pressure per square inch decreases in cold weather, meaning that your tyres could be under inflated. If you haven’t checked the pressure since summer, now might be the best time to do it. If the tyres are under inflated, not only could it affect the car’s steering and handling capabilities, but it could also have an effect on the lifespan of the tyres and could increase treadwear.

4. Unseen cracks

A small chip on your windscreen in summer might not cause too much of a problem. However, if left untreated, it could get worse and increase in size in winter. Although you mightn't see them when they happen, chances are you will begin to notice them once the cold season starts.

Moisture can get into a small crack or chip. When this moisture freezes as the temperature drops, it can crack the windscreen further. Soon, what was once a small crack can become very large to the point where you need a full windscreen replacement.

5. Reduced fuel efficiency

The cold weather can cause you to use more fuel than you might otherwise. This can be caused by leaving the engine running while you deice the car and even under inflated tyres, as discussed previously. Lower temperatures can also increase the viscosity of the oil and other fluids in your car, which means that more work and more fuel is required to overcome friction in the engine, transmission and other drive train components.

Why does my engine light come on in cold weather?

Modern cars have plenty of sensors so that when a problem arises, we can be alerted as soon as possible via lights and warning signs on our dashboard. If you’ve noticed more lights than normal on your dash during the cold weather, there could be a good reason for it.

You may be alarmed when you see your engine warning light come on, but generally, when this happens in cold weather, it’s more likely that it’s alerting you to a low or flat battery. Alternatively, you might have a separate low battery light that comes on. A low battery can cause all kinds of issues and can affect the electrical components, including sensors and windows.

Why won’t my car start in the cold?

It’s not just a low battery that could prevent your car from starting in the cold weather, but also alternator and starter motor issues. The alternator is what charges the battery as you drive the car, and so an issue with this device can lead to a flat battery. You may also notice problems such as faulty electric windows, flashing headlights and flickering dashboard lights.

How can you combat the effects of cold weather on your car

So, what are some things you can do to prevent the five things above from having too much of an impact on your car in the cold weather?

Washing your car frequently, especially in winter, can help to remove the salt that may have covered your car when driving on gritted roads.

You should also check your tyre pressure on a regular basis, keep your windscreen wash fully topped up to keep the screen clear and check it for cracks or chips, and park your car in a garage or sheltered spot where possible.