Extreme cold weather can damage your vehicle. If you live in an area where frigid winter temperatures are common, you will need to protect your vehicle from the cold. Various parts of your car and truck will begin to experience failure or performance challenges as the weather plummets. As the winter weather sets in, be aware of the stress the cold creates for your vehicle.

Follow the guidelines below for these frosty temperatures to protect your vehicle from cold and winter weather.

When the Weather is Below 40° F

Spark plugs will weaken below 40° F. If they are older or damaged, they may not start as easily. Make sure they are clean and replace any old or damaged parts. In addition, be aware that for every 10° F temperature drops, your tires will lose one psi (pounds per square inch). Once temps reach this temperature, it’s a good time to check your tire’s psi and make adjustments as needed.

When the Weather is Below 35° F

At this temperature, your transmission fluid begins to thicken. You will find your vehicle may not run at its normal pace. To maintain a stable transmission performance in cold weather, pressure and fluid levels need to be regulated well. Make sure all your vehicle fluid levels are full, including motor oil. Motor oil can also thicken and cause challenges with the vehicle starting. Be aware of your vehicles limitations to avoid challenges on the road. If you are having challenges changing gears, run the engine to warm it up, and it should improve performance.

You may also find at this temperature that your LCD screen starts to behave sluggishly. Just like the fluid in your vehicle, the molecules in the liquid crystal display behave sluggishly in the cold. The performance will improve as you continue your journey and the vehicle warms up.

When the Weather is Below 32° F

Below 32 degrees, car batteries can lose up to 35 percent of their normal strength. Meanwhile, it can take twice as much current to get your vehicle started in cold conditions. To avoid battery failure, replace your battery every three years, and get it tested before the cold sets in. If your battery has a weak charge, replace it. It will not be able to perform once the weather begins to chill. Consider purchasing a heavy duty battery, to get more power to work with during freezing or below freezing temperatures.

When the Weather is Below 20° F

As ice begins to thicken, windshield wipers are more susceptible to breaking. Make sure to have appropriate, winter-weather wipers installed on your truck, van or car. Keep an extra set around in case they break, so you can pull over and put the new wipers on. Do not drive with broken wipers during precipitation events, as this will affect your visibility and safety. In addition, extreme weather can overpower the freezing point of your wiper fluid and turn it to slush. Keep the windshield as warm as possible with your vehicle’s defroster or heater to help with this issue.

When the Weather is Below 0° F

According to AAA, a car battery will lose 60 percent of its strength once temps reach 0 degrees. If possible, park your vehicle in a garage where temps may remain warmer than out of doors. The gasoline in your fuel line will not freeze, but water moisture in the line can become icy. Keep the tank at least half full to help prevent a clog in the fuel pickup.

When the Weather is Below -20° F

At this low temperature, typical motor oil becomes so thick that an engine’s pump struggles to pick it up and circulate it. Switch to a low viscosity oil, such as a 5W-30. Your vehicle manufacturer may also have suggestions about the best motor oil to use in subzero temps.

Follow these cold weather vehicle safety tips to ensure your car or truck get you where you need to go all winter long. Check out our additional posts to see how to prepare your pickup truck for winter weather, and how to keep a pickup truck bed clear of snow.

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