Fact or Fiction? A Closer Look at 5 Cold-weather Car Myths

Winter is upon us, which means we’ll soon be dealing with snow-covered roads, frozen windshields, and generally all-around unpleasant driving conditions. For many car owners, winter is also the season of car trouble. Batteries die. Windshields crack. Cars slip and slide off the road. Winter is a rough time of year for cars and their owners.

You’ve no doubt heard some of the car care “tips” that are popular this time of year. You may see them on social media or hear about them from friends. Or maybe you heard them when you first learned to drive.

Let’s separate fact from fiction. Below are five of the most common pieces of winter car care advice. Do any of these sound familiar? If so, you may want to rethink how you care for your vehicle this winter.

Putting sandbags in the trunk will give you better traction.

Fact or fiction? Fiction.

This may be the most pervasive winter car care tip out there. All you have to do is look at the bags of sand displayed for sale outside your favorite grocery and hardware stores as a winter storm approaches.

The thinking is that putting sandbags into your trunk will even out the distribution of weight across the car. That will prevent the back wheels from spinning out and reduce the odds of you getting stuck in the snow.

There was a time when this tip was a good one. However, that was back when most of the weight in a car was distributed towards the front. In today’s cars, the weight is distributed more evenly. Plus many cars today have all-wheel drive. If you have an older car, the sandbags may be useful. If your car is newer, though, the sandbags likely won’t be much help.

You need to run your car for 10 minutes at lunch time so it will start when you leave work.

Fact or fiction? Fiction.

When you’re at work on cold winter days, do you see people trudge out to the parking lot at lunch time to run their cars for 10 minutes? Are you one of these people? If so, here’s some good news: you can stop spending 10 minutes of your lunch break in your car everyday.

While cold weather can affect a car’s battery (see point #3), sitting in a garage or parking lot for eight hours without starting isn’t going to be a deal breaker. After all, your car sat all night in cold weather and you were still able to drive it to work, right?

If your car doesn’t start after a cold day in your office’s parking lot, it’s probably because it needs new spark plugs anyway, not because you failed to let it run at lunch time. Forget about starting your car and instead enjoy every minute of your lunch. You deserve it.

Your battery is more likely to die during the winter.

Fact or fiction? Fiction, sort of.

While it may seem like car batteries die more often in the winter, the reality is that hot weather is a bigger threat to battery life. However, cold weather can still do plenty of battery damage.

When the temperature drops, the chemical reactions in the battery take more time to generate electricity. That’s why it may take a few seconds before your engine turns over. Additionally, the cold weather can cause the oil in your battery to congeal and take on a thicker texture. That places more strain on the battery, making it work harder to get your car started.

Winter can be tough on a battery, but it’s still not as bad as extreme heat. When the temperature rises, the heat can cook the battery’s supply of electrolyte. That leaves the car battery dry and unable to generate power.

Can your battery die during the winter? Absolutely. Is battery death a greater threat in the winter than in the summer? Probably not.

Running the defroster at the highest temperature is the best way to keep water from freezing and streaking on your windshield.

Fact or fiction? Fact.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about driving during the winter is keeping your windshield clean. There’s salt flying onto your windshield. You can’t seem to keep it clean. And every time you spray the wiper fluid, it freezes and streaks across the glass.

The worst thing you can do is keep spraying wiper fluid. A spray of fluid may give you quick visibility, but eventually that moisture will freeze again and you’ll be right back in the same situation.

Instead, turn on your defroster and crank it up to full heat and full fan power. Give it a few minutes and the frozen moisture should melt off. Then you can use your wipers to clear it away. You also may want to change your wiper blades, or at least wipe them down after every drive.

If the issue seems to be a regular occurrence, try putting some Rain-X on your windshield. That will prevent moisture from hanging around, meaning there won’t be as much water to freeze and obstruct your view.

Windshield cracks can spread in cold weather.

Fact or fiction? Fact.

Do you have a chip or small crack in your windshield? There’s a good chance that tiny chip could become a big problem by the end of winter.

Moisture can accumulate in even the tiniest of cracks. When temperatures drop, the moisture freezes and expands, causing the crack to grow. Additionally, if you’re blowing hot air on the windshield, the contrast between hot and cold air can exacerbate the problem.

You may unwittingly cause the crack to spread through your efforts to deice your windshield. If you throw hot water on your windshield to remove ice, some of that water will eventually fall into the crack. When the water cools and freezes, the crack will expand. An ice scraper can also cause a chip to expand if it hits the chip in the right spot.

A few months of snow, ice, and cold temperatures can turn a small chip into a costly repair or even a windshield replacement. Don’t risk it this winter. Get your windshield repaired today.

If you have a cracked or chipped windshield, you can trust the experts at Jack’s Glass to fix the damage quickly, with a focus on high-quality repair and exceptional customer service. Find a location near you or call us at 859-342-JACKS (5225) to find out how we can help.