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How Do Below-Freezing Temperatures Affect Your Car?

Posted on in Car Accidents

Winter in Illinois regularly brings temperatures far below the freezing point of 32 degrees. In fact, this winter has already featured temperatures well below zero. With record cold predicted for the rest of the winter season, many auto owners are wondering what these brutally cold temperatures could mean for the overall condition of their vehicles.

Low Temperatures Issues

Below-freezing or sub-zero temperatures can affect the performance of your vehicle in several ways.

Decreased tire pressure.

Your car’s manual should list optimum tire pressure; alternatively, many vehicles list this figure on the inside of the driver’s-side door frame. Colder temperatures can result in once-adequately-filled tires losing pressure as cold air occupies less space. Under-filled tires can result in decreased gas mileage, poor handling, and even blowouts in extreme cases.

Ensure that your car’s tires retain adequate pressure even in cold weather. Keep a tire pressure gauge handy, or stop regularly at air stations where you can check pressure before adding more air to your tires. Taking caution now can help avoid poor handling or blowouts causing an accident later on.

Battery issues.

The colder the weather, the less capacity your car’s battery holds, which can make starting your vehicle in the morning difficult or impossible. Jumper cables can usually remedy a dead battery, but in extremely cold weather, it can be dangerous to remain outdoors long enough to jump a battery.

Due to sustained cold, drivers in Illinois should consider purchasing car blankets or a battery warmer, available at most auto parts stores. In addition, make sure your car’s battery is up-to-date; you should replace batteries approximately every three years. If your battery is older than that, it may be time to replace it now to avoid becoming stranded later. Look for a battery rated for cold weather and has a high rating of cold cranking amps, which allows for a greater amount of current to start your car.

Thickened fluids.

Severe cold can thicken your car’s fluids and reduce their effectiveness. Cold weather can affect fluids such as antifreeze, power steering fluid, brake, and transmission fluids. Transmission fluid, in particular, needs to flow smoothly, so extremely cold temperatures can be hard on your car’s transmission.

Oil is another fluid that becomes thicker in cold weather. Extreme cold temperatures of 20 degrees or more below zero can result in oil so thick your car’s oil pump may not be able to circulate it. A low-viscosity, synthetic oil rated 10W-30 or 5W-30 is a wise choice in Illinois’ winter climate.

Windshield wipers.

Snow, ice, and subzero temperatures can lead to cracked and damaged windshield wipers. Thickened windshield washer fluid may not release well, or snow and ice may block sprayer points, resulting in ineffective clearing of the windshield. Although drivers should take care to clear windshields of obstructions before driving, ineffective wiper blades can pose a hazard while driving in the elements.

Choose a wiper blade rated for winter conditions and less susceptible to damage. Because you should replace wiper blades at least once every six months, you can alternate between summer and winter blades. A washer fluid rated for cold weather is also suggested, easing the clearing of your windshield and improving your view.

Illinois vehicles are regularly exposed to below-freezing and sub-zero temperatures every winter, but performing maintenance on your vehicle before the cold season hits can prevent many of these issues. In addition, parking your vehicle in a garage is the best way to ensure its temperature remains at a reasonable level. If garage parking is not available, consider parking in an area where nearby buildings provide some shelter from the elements. Alternatively, consider parking facing east, where the morning sun can assist in warming your car’s engine and battery before you attempt to turn on the ignition.

Contact Our Knowledgeable Attorneys

If you get into an accident due to the frigid weather conditions, it's in your best interest to contact an attorney. Our Springfield, Illinois accident attorneys are committed to helping accident victims, regardless of the severity of your injury, get the compensation you are owed. Our attorneys have obtained more than $400 million in compensation for accident victims. With offices in Bloomington, Champaign, Decatur, Macomb, Pekin, Quincy, Rushville, and Springfield, we can effectively serve clients throughout central Illinois. If you have been injured in a car accident, contact Kanoski Bresney today at (217) 523-7742 or by email.

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