Does the Colder Weather Affect your Vehicle?

If the temperatures have been dropping in your area, you might be wondering what kind of car maintenance you should be doing. Does cooler weather affect your vehicle’s effectiveness? Should you be thinking about tyre pressure? And how long is too long when it comes to warming up a cold engine?

Parkhound has the answers to all of your winter car maintenance questions. In this FAQs article, you’ll be well prepared for the cold season!

How cold does it have to be to start worrying about car maintenance?

As we all know, winter varies drastically here in Australia. In some places, you might experience all of the trappings of a winter wonderland – snow, sleet, ice, and hail. In this climate, you will surely have to think about things like low tyre pressure, ice on your windshield and the poor battery life. And, we’ll get into that in a moment.

But how about the people who live in mild winter areas? The worst thing about winter for anyone in these regions might be slightly cooler temperatures and a few rainy days. You certainly won’t be dealing with snow and ice. Well, unfortunately, you’re not off the hook when it comes to winter car maintenance. Some of the tips that we’ll cover in this article will be key steps in making your car winter-ready, regardless of temperature. So, even if you’re not bundling up this winter, read on! You’ll learn some valuable winter car maintenance tips for your specific region.

Car batteries – when are they at risk and what can you do about it?

This is probably the most common winter car maintenance question that drivers have as the temperatures start to decrease. What is it about cold weather that puts a car battery at risk? And how can you ensure that you don’t have that dreaded experience of a dead battery on a chilly morning?

Well, the first thing to understand is that regardless of where you live, you’re likely going to strain the car battery more during winter than summer. That may be confusing if you’ve only ever heard that high temperatures damage car batteries. Let us explain. During the dreary, cold days of winter, you’re going to rely more on your car’s heating and defrosting system, the windshield wipers, and headlights, all of which drain the battery. Add that to the fact that the temperature for an optimally functioning battery is 26.7 degrees C, and you can see why the cooler months could be difficult for your car battery. 

Now, what’s going to happen in the worst case scenario here? Your battery will die. Unlike heat damage, that will render your battery useless, cold exposure can put you in that awful scenario of being stranded with a dead battery. Plus, the constant strain could shorten the lifespan of your battery. 

So, what can you do? Follow these four car maintenance steps.

One, make sure that your car is parked in a warm spot – ideally a home garage. Don’t have your own? You might consider booking one through Parkhound. If you’re in one of the cooler cities, like Melbourne, Hobart, or Canberra, you can find affordable parking spaces right in your neighbourhood to protect your car battery. 

Two, keep that car battery well charged. This is going to be especially true if you plan on storing your car long term. A fully charged battery will fare better against the cold than a battery with low charge.

Three, know when it’s time to have your battery replaced. If you’re constantly having car maintenance issues with your battery keeping a charge and you’ve had the battery for more than three years, it might not be the weather. 

And four, start the engine regularly. In general, the advice from experts is that a car shouldn’t sit untouched for more than a week in storage. But in winter, you’ll want to make starting your engine a more regular habit. If this isn’t possible, consider removing your car battery while your car is in storage.

Winter and tyre pressure? What’s the deal?

The physics behind this winter car maintenance question is pretty simple: cold air compresses while hot air expands. And the air in your tyres is no different. During colder temperatures, you might notice your tyre pressure falling, putting you at risk for handling problems while you drive. But just how cold does it have to be for you to worry about your tyre pressure? Well, the concern here is really more about how drastic the fluctuations are in temperature. Because the average tyre will drop about .19PSI for every 1 degree celsius decreased, you should start thinking about your tyre pressure whenever the weather takes a turn for the worse.  

To be fair, you should be checking your tyre pressure regularly, regardless of the season. It’s an easy car maintenance task that can be done about once every two weeks. 

Should you take your car to a mechanic in anticipation of winter?

Taking your car in for a tune up is recommended in anticipation of the cooler months. A mechanic will be able to check and replace fluids, top off your antifreeze, and inspect the engine to make sure there are no leaks that might cause issues while driving this winter. If your car has been running smoothly, you shouldn’t need anything too drastic – just a quick tune up so that your car is in tip top shape when you really need it.

How can you increase visibility while driving this winter?

Less-than-ideal weather conditions, fogging windshields, old windshield wipers, and of course the longer nights are all factors that decrease visibility while driving during the winter. So what can you do about it? Here are a few ideas:

  • Brighten your headlights. This might mean replacing the bulbs or restoring cloudy headlight covers. 
  • Swap out your wiper blades. You will be amazed at the difference in visibility after you replace your old, ineffective wipers with new high-quality ones.
  • Be careful with your windscreen. If you live in a place where your windscreen is prone to freezing, you might be tempted to pour hot water on it before scraping. This may be effective, but it could cause the glass to crack. Better to use a de-icer or park your car in a covered garage where it will be less likely to freeze.

Overall, you may not fix winter visibility problems completely, so always remember to drive more carefully this season.

Anything else you should know before driving into the winter season?

Before you get bundled up to go for a drive, we have a few last tips to share about winter car maintenance:

  • Idling your car to warm up the engine is a myth. At most, you should let the car sit for about 30 seconds after ignition before driving. That said, don’t speed off, just drive smoothly until your car is fully warm.
  • Be aware that hibernating animals will see your vehicle as a refuge. Before placing your car in long term storage, you should take the time to plug up all of the holes and crevices where animals can hide.
  • Winter is hard on all of us, vehicles included. Drive slowly when you can, always be aware, and don’t forget that regular car maintenance!

Have more winter concerns? Ask us at Parkhound all of your car maintenance questions!