Freeze out winter car trouble with tips from AMA

Albertans may be built for the cold but our vehicles aren’t as hardcore. AMA’s legendary roadside assistance team knows that better than anyone, seeing firsthand how frigid temperatures wreak havoc on everything from engine blocks to batteries. In fact, during extreme temperatures, we rescue a stranded motorist every 40 seconds!

The good news is that many breakdowns can be prevented with an ounce or two of prevention.

Tires: Avoid getting caught in the cold with a flat. Most tires lose one pound per square inch for every 5 C drop in temperature, which makes it critical to regularly check pressure in winter.  It’s also wise to switch to winter tires, which studies show stop 14.68 metres sooner on ice than all-season tires.

Battery: Extreme cold pulls voltage from a battery, making it harder for your vehicle to start. In fact, battery output drops by about half at -18 C. Furthermore, when the water in a battery freezes, the expansion can cause irreparable damage to the cells. Keeping your battery fully charged – either by driving regularly or by using a battery tender – will help prevent these winter woes. CAA Battery Service also offers members free testing and exclusive pricing on new batteries – delivered and installed! – as does our partner, Lube City.

Engine: When it’s cold, engines run least efficiently in the first 20 minutes, during which time they use a high gas-to-air ratio to prevent stalls. Plugging in your vehicle at temperatures below -15C will help the engine turn over. The engine block also becomes vulnerable to cracking in winter – whether due to the wrong mix of antifreeze and water, or low temperatures causing the coolant to freeze – so it’s important to stay on top of coolant levels and mixtures. Approved Auto Repair Service facilities can guide you.

Fuel: If the tank gets too low in winter, drivers risk a fuel-line freeze. Cold weather also dramatically decreases fuel efficiency, with vehicles consuming as much as 28 per cent more gas during urban commutes in -7 C (winter) than in 24 C (summer). Using AMA’s Road Reporter app to plan your route can save time and money!

Windshield: Cold weather causes a slightly concave windshield, which in turn makes small cracks spread horizontally. In addition, when temperatures fall below freezing, any moisture inside a chip will freeze and expand, inflicting further damage. The combination of cold outdoor air with a strong interior defroster can also put stress on a vehicle’s glass, making it more vulnerable to flaws. Our advice? Stay on top of minor chips to prevent major damage, and be sure to use a snowbrush/scraper (versus windshield wipers) to remove snow and ice.

Fluids: Motor oil, antifreeze, power steering, brake and transmission fluids all thicken in cold temperatures, making it harder for vehicles to run properly. Be sure to follow the recommendations in your owner’s manual, or talk to a trusted AMA Approved Auto Repair Service mechanic to make sure your vehicle is as ready for winter as you are.

To check AMA’s current wait times or find out more about Roadside Assistance, please visit our website.