Top Car Problems Caused by Extreme Cold

car breakdown
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Car problems caused by extreme cold

As the cold weather sets it, it’s important to prepare your car for the winter weather conditions.

Battery faults are by far the most common cause of a car breakdown at this time of year, however, extreme weather can throw up some other unusual types of car breakdowns too. We have listed the most common causes below, along with advice on how to prevent them happening to you.

Frozen Screenwashers

It is unlikely that frozen screenwash alone will cause a car breakdown, however if the pump is kept running until it burns out and blows a fuse, it can affect something like the immobiliser system which can cause the car to breakdown. To prevent your screenwash freezing, use a screenwash additive all year round. Remember to use undiluted screenwash in winter.

Frozen Wipers

Trying to operate windscreen wipers stuck solid to the glass can lead to blown fuses affecting other more vital systems. If low temperatures are forecast make sure that automatic windscreen wipers are turned off – so they don’t try to operate when you turn the ignition on. Make sure the wipers aren’t stuck to the glass, before setting off too.

Frozen Engines

Extreme winter weather can often result in a frozen car engine. This issue often occurs due to a lack of anti-freeze. It is vital that you check the level regularly and top-up if needed using a mix of the correct type of anti-freeze. See our advice on how to top up your coolant here.

Stripped teeth on cambelt causing engine damage

If you attempt to start your car on a cold winter’s morning, only to be faced by a squealing noise under the bonnet – this may be a sign that your water pump is frozen. Starting the engine on a car with a frozen water pump can lead to internal engine damage. It can strip the teeth off the timing belt in the car and damage repair can be expensive.

Frozen door locks and door seals

Frozen door locks are a nuisance, especially when it’s cold outside. The best cure A squirt of a water-dispersant like WD40 in the locks will help as will a light smear of Vaseline or silicone polish on the door seals. If snow falls clear it from the car while still soft rather than leaving it for days on end – the car will turn into a block of ice.

Frozen ignition locks

Frozen ignition locks are caused when the inside of a car is damp during extreme weather, therefore it is very important that your car is kept dry. Remove any wet clothes or boots in the car as leaving them overnight will only encourage the issue to occur.

Windows frozen to their frame

If your car windows are looking icy, it’s always a good idea to let the car warm up and wait until the ice has melted. Trying to power down the window while it is frozen in the frame can cause the window to become detached from the mechanism inside the door .

Frozen rear drum brakes

Cleaning your car regularly through the winter is a good idea as it will remove corrosive road salt from your car. However, if using a hose or pressure washer and blast water inside brake cables or drums and the temperature drops. A drive after cleaning can help but it’s best to take care when hosing wheel arches or wheels.

Not really a breakdown, unless you keep running the pump until it burns out and blows a fuse affecting something like the immobiliser system! Use a screenwash additive all year round – undiluted in winter.

Trying to operate windscreen wipers stuck solid to the glass can lead to blown fuses affecting other more vital systems. If low temperatures are forecast make sure that automatic windscreen wipers are turned off – so they don’t try to operate when you turn the ignition on. Make sure the wipers aren’t stuck to the glass, before setting off too.

Frozen engines can occur due to a lack of anti-freeze. Make sure you get it checked regularly and top-up using a mix of the correct type of anti-freeze.

Try to start a car with a frozen waterpump and you could strip the teeth off the timing belt leading to expensive internal engine damage.

A squirt of a water-dispersant like WD40 in the locks will help as will a light smear of Vaseline or silicone polish on the door seals. If snow falls clear it from the car while still soft rather than leaving it for days on end – the car will turn into a block of ice.

It’s hard to keep the inside of the car completely dry when it’s cold and wet outside but it’ll help avoid this rare but annoying problem – don’t leave wet clothes or boots in the car overnight.

Windows can become detached from the mechanism inside the door if you try to power them down while the windows frozen in the frame. Best left until the car’s warmed up and the ice melted.

If the driven wheels are on an icy road and can’t grip it’s possible that an automatic parking brake won’t release.

It’s good to clean your car regularly through the winter to remove corrosive road salt but not if you use a hose or pressure washer and blast water inside brake cables or drums and the temperature drops. A drive after cleaning can help but it’s best to take care when hosing wheel arches or wheels.

Fortunately very rare, but poor design of under-bonnet drains can lead to water from the windscreen getting into the alternator and freezing the rotor. A screaming noise from the ‘fanbelt’ accompanied by smoke, a burning smell and a battery warning light on the dash will tell you there’s something wrong.

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