Common Causes of Car Breakdowns in the Winter

If the chaos of the holiday season wasn’t enough to get your stress level skyrocketing, perhaps a car breakdown in the middle of a snowstorm will do the trick? It’s hard to imagine too many travel snafus more inconvenient than an unforeseen vehicle issue during the dead of winter, but luckily, there are plenty of ways to prevent and resolve potential problems. Here’s what you need to know to help avoid a cold weather catastrophe.

A dead battery: Car batteries don’t produce a charge as effectively in cold weather, so it’s more likely in winter to encounter the stomach-churning scenario of turning your key in the ignition to no effect. To help prevent this issue, check your battery’s voltage before the temperatures dip too low. If your voltage is below 12.40 volts, it might be time to get a new battery.

Worn out tires: There are a ton of reasons to routinely check your tire pressure, but many drivers just, well, don’t. In addition to ensuring a longer tire life, proper inflation can contribute to a better steering response, better fuel efficiency, and an overall smoother ride. And since overinflation can cause just as much damage as underinflation (think: treadwear and tire failure), knowing how to gauge the right amount is crucial. Checking the tread of your tires is critical too, so make sure you monitor tire pressure and tread before the weather turns too chilly or the roads get icy. You may be able to get a good sense of the shape of your tires by using one simple tool: a penny

Thickened fluids: Fluids thicken in cold temperatures, and that includes all the motor oil and other liquids in your car that allow it to run smoothly. If the fluids become too thick, they won’t be able to flow through the vehicle, and your car may even overheat. Keep up with your regular oil changes and if you’re unsure whether the fluids in your car are suitable for cold temps, visit a mechanic for some advice. 

Accidents on the road: Yes, accidents can happen any time, anywhere, but wet roads are responsible for the huge amount of weather-related crashes. Be extra vigilant behind the wheel and maybe consider an alternate mode of transportation (or working from home or skipping the social gathering) if winter weather gets too rough. Stick with Metromile to insure you against winter disaster. And keep an eye on out for more advice on staying safe and saving major money.

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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer.