Houston residents do not often worry too much about what cold weather might do to our vehicles. Compared to Minnesota, Montana, Alaska, or many other states at closer to the top of the country, our winters are mild. Often, what we might call unseasonably cold weather, people in those northern states would call moderate—or even warm. But this time of year, many people are going to go and visit friends and family who live in colder climes, so there are things you need to know before you take your warm weather car to igloo country. Remember, northern climates require that you winterize your vehicle for maximum performance.
Take It Easy
When the weather is cold, fluids get thicker and that means they don’t do their jobs as well. They don’t lubricate the way they were intended to, but one way to make that less of a problem is to drive slowly for the first few miles after driving when the car has cooled down. Pay attention to the temperature gage on your vehicle, and once it makes it to the temperature your engine normally runs at when it is warmed up, you can speed up and push your engine like normal.
Some transmissions also don’t circulate transmission fluid when the gear shift is in neutral. That means that when you start a vehicle and allow it to warm up while it is parked, in some vehicles the oil isn’t flowing, so metal parts of the transmission are spinning—in cold conditions—without any lubrication. This is true whether you have a manual or an automatic transmission. If you don’t want to drive around to warm your vehicle up, you can purchase an engine warmer. These come with timers and allow the engine to, literally, get warmed up prior to being driven.
Be Careful If You Get Stuck
Even vehicles that don’t get stuck, as in you can’t get out of the snowdrift stuck, can have their transmissions damaged in snow and ice. The more often the driver has to spin their wheels to find dry pavement, dirt, or grass for their tires to find purchase, the more potential damage is being done to the transmission. What happens is the tires spin at 40 miles an hour, so the transmission shifts gears as though the vehicle is really moving, even though the vehicle is in one spot. Then, if the tires find that spot that allows them to gain traction, the speed will decrease dramatically and suddenly.
When visiting northern snowy and icy areas, try to simply avoid parking in those places where getting stuck is a likely outcome. If you do need to park in snow that might be difficult to pull out off, have tube of sand, a bag of cat litter, or use a floor mat to make getting out of trouble easy to accomplish. Not only will that make things less frustrating, but it will be better on the transmission.
One of the highlights of the holidays is a chance to visit friends and family. However, especially if you have an older car, special care should be taken to ensure that it will survive the trip, and that you won’t damage it and need a transmission replacement later. If you treat an older car with an older transmission well, it will return the favor and not make you spend unnecessary money to get it fixed. Enjoy the Holidays!