January 31, 2020

The Effects Freezing Temperatures Have on Your Car's Fluids



Depending on the area of the country in which you live, winter weather and frigid temperatures have the potential to wreak havoc on your vehicle. We often think about the dangers of snow and ice on the road or any problems of starting the car in the cold.  But people don’t always consider the impact freezing temperatures have on their vehicle’s fluids.

Here is some information to know about your car’s fluids and what to monitor during the coldest points of the winter.

Regular Gasoline

Fortunately, with gasoline, there’s an extremely high probability that your tank will not freeze solid. Due to its chemical makeup, gasoline has a significantly lower freezing point than water. Different fuels have different chemical balances, but the estimated point of freezing for gasoline is approximately  -100º Fahrenheit. colder than any recorded temperature in North American history.

While gas does not freeze, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re completely in the clear when the outside temperatures continue to decrease. While not freezing entirely, gasoline has the potential to become thicker and more viscous, which puts more wear and tear on your engine by causing it to work harder to process the fuel. Cold weather also often leads to condensation, which can freeze inside a gas tank or a fuel line, preventing the proper amount of gas from getting to your engine.

Diesel Fuel

The components of diesel fuel are different than the components of “regular” gas, and react much differently to cold weather. The freezing point is higher, and elements of diesel fuel can start to coagulate even at temperatures slightly above freezing. As the temperature outside drops, diesel continues to change and become more of a gel, which can clog filters and fuel lines.

Fortunately, there are seasonal variants of diesel fuels that are manufactured in such a way to have a lower freezing tolerance. In colder weather, diesel vehicle operators, like truck drivers, will often utilize engine block heaters or leave their engines running to prevent the gelling of fuel and keep their vehicles running properly.

Other Fluids

Gasoline isn’t the only vehicle fluid to take into consideration when it comes to cold weather automobile operations. Motor oil, for example, is a product created from petroleum, and therefore not technically capable of freezing, can also gel or coagulate like diesel fuel, and cause problems inside your car’s engine when it doesn’t move through as smoothly. This change is the result of the precipitation of dissolved waxes contained in the oil. Gasoline does not contain these waxes, which is why it is not as sensitive to cool temperatures as petroleum-based motor oils.

If you live in an area with a colder climate, consider utilizing a winter-grade or a synthetic motor oil. Synthetic oils have a lower freezing and coagulation point.

Another area to keep an eye on is your wiper fluid. While it isn’t as much of a necessity for the operation of your vehicle as gasoline or motor oil, if the wiper fluid freezes, it could cause damages that will cost you more in the long run. It’s possible that your washer fluid tank could crack or the pump gets damaged as the frozen fluid expands, necessitating an entire new tank. There are wiper fluids available (mixed with alcohol/anti-freeze solutions) that have a lower freezing point.

Regardless of temperature, one of the most important fluids you need to make sure is in working order is the anti-freeze in your radiator. In addition to keeping the liquids in your engine from freezing in cold weather, anti-freeze cools the same liquids in hot weather, and serves as a lubricant for the parts of a car that it touches, keeping all liquids moving through the car smoothly.

If you notice any problems with your car’s performance or have questions about any of your car’s fluids during the winter, please contact your local Milex Complete Auto Care professional for some helpful advice.

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