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null Winter Vehicle Breakdowns

This winter, make sure your Christmas shopping doesn’t get interrupted by an unexpected car breakdown – here are four common reasons for why your car might break down in the winter, and what you can do to prevent it from happening this festive season.

The issue: A dead car battery

Many winter car breakdowns are caused by car batteries dying, since its harder for your car’s battery to produce a charge in the winter time, making it more difficult to produce the energy needed for the vehicle to start.

How to prevent it:

Help prevent your car’s battery from dying this winter in the middle of a Christmas shopping errand – before the weather gets too cold, check your battery’s voltage with a voltmeter or multimeter. Around 12.40 to 12.75 volts is enough to ensure a functioning car battery. If you live in a very cold climate, it may be worth investing in a car battery rated for cold temperatures. Look for a battery with a high cold cranking amps count; this is a measure of how many amps your car’s battery can generate in cold temperatures.

The issue: An overheated car

Many motorists falsely assume that their vehicle can only overheat during the summertime. But overheating is a concern even in winter, as motor oil runs thicker in chilly temperatures, making motor oil circulation more difficult, which could lead to overheating.

How to prevent it:

Help keep your car’s motor oil circulating properly so your vehicle can get all the fluids it needs to run – get your oil and fluids checked by your mechanic, before the temperatures drop too low. If your oil is running thick, your mechanic may need to perform an oil change and switch your car to a thinner oil more suited to winter temperatures.

The issue: Bald tires

When it comes to tires, bald is not beautiful! In fact, it can be downright dangerous.
Your tires are considered “bald” when their tread has completely worn down to the wear bars. Car tires are considered legally bald when the tread depth reaches 2/32 inches or 1.5 millimetres on your summer tires, or 3.5 millimetres or 4/32 inches of tread depth on your winter tires.

With no tread on your tires to push water away or to grip onto the ice or snow, your tires have no traction, and you run the risk of hydroplaning, losing control of your vehicle or even a tire blowout.

Driving with bald tires is not only incredibly dangerous, it can also result in legal charges.

How to prevent it:

Prevent a winter tire blowout by regularly checking your tires for wear and replacing them when the tread depth reaches critical levels. Not sure how to check the tire tread depth? It’s easy – all you need is a quarter.

Place a quarter, caribou-side up, into one of your tire’s tread grooves, with the caribou’s nose facing down. If you’re able to see the tip of the caribou’s nose, then it’s time to replace your tires.

Suspect there might be something else wrong with your tires? Check out these other signs that you need you replace your tires this winter.

The issue: Squealing when you start the car

Sometimes when we leave our car outside overnight in the wintertime, we might wake up to find our car isn’t exactly starting up. If you’re left trying to start your car up on a winter morning, and hear a sharp squealing noise, you may be dealing with a frozen and cracked radiator. Other signs of a frozen radiator include your warning lights coming on, or steam emanating from the hood of your car after you’ve turned it on.

How to prevent it:

You can prevent a frozen and cracked radiator by checking your car’s coolant levels before the temperatures start to drop. Ask your mechanic to add this to your pre-winter maintenance checkup, so they can ensure your coolant concentration is correct. Another way to help keep the fluids in your engine from freezing is by parking your car indoors overnight whenever possible, which helps keep your car’s engine fluids from freezing and expanding.

Even if you’ve taken all of these precautions, you still need to drive carefully on snowy, icy or slush-filled roads. Plus, make sure to stay on top of your winter car maintenance – because the best solution is prevention!

Related posts

What Road Salt Does to Your Car

6 Flat Tire Causes and How to Prevent Them

Icy Roads: What to do if your Vehicle Skids

Winter Vehicle Breakdowns

vehicle covered in snow

Car breakdowns are a nuisance any time of year, but when temperatures tumble during the winter months, a vehicle breakdown could leave you in a tricky – and chilly – situation.

These tips are provided for information and prevention purposes only. They are general in nature, and Desjardins Insurance cannot be held liable for them. We recommend using caution and consulting an expert for comprehensive, tailored advice.

In Quebec, Desjardins Insurance refers to Desjardins General Insurance Inc. In Ontario and Alberta, Desjardins Insurance refers to Certas Direct Insurance Company, underwriter of automobile and property insurance.

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