Cold weather and Colorado go hand in hand.
While we love skiing, the occasional blizzard, and days off from work and school, sometimes the cold weather can be a bit challenging. Heading out to a car that won’t start can be a bit frustrating. Finding out your brakes aren’t working can be dangerous at best.
Brakes are one of the most critical systems of today’s modern cars. Have you ever noticed changes in how your car brakes on the coldest days of the year? You’re not alone. We are often flooded with calls when the temperatures dip to zero and below.
Cold weather brake problems are different from issues you may experience at other times of the year. While cold weather doesn’t directly impact your brake system the same as a car battery, it can change how your car handles and moves. Being aware of the impact cold weather has on brakes will keep you safe no matter what the thermometer reads when you head out into the world.
Cold weather may impact the brake lines
What keeps your brakes in good working condition is the brake fluid. The freezing point of brake fluid is -40 degrees Fahrenheit, but the freezing point isn’t an all-or-nothing process. Instead, brake fluid starts to congeal the colder it gets. And as the brake fluid thickens, you’ll notice it in the way your car handles.
You might be thinking that the Front Range never sees -40 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures. Yet we do see the temperatures creep well below zero almost every winter season.
If your brake fluid is fresh and in top shape, it will continue to work fine as the temperatures drop. But if you don’t keep your brakes well maintained, that could be a problem.
Over time, brake fluid absorbs moisture from the air. Even though the braking system is mostly airtight, the brake fluid will still come in contact with air and moisture. And when there is moisture in the brake lines, even 32 degrees Fahrenheit can be a problem.
Studies show that up to one in five cars is driving around with water in the brake line. If you haven’t had your vehicle inspected, or asked about having your brake lines flushed in a while, it could present a problem on the next bitter cold day.
Cold weather could actually cause too much heat
Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? How could cold weather cause too much heat?
When ice, snow, and all that comes with winter driving impacts your brake pads, you’ll start applying more pressure to the brake pedal every time you slow down or come to a stop. More pressure means more action in the braking system. And that can cause it to get very hot. Too much heat and it causes the entire braking system to overheat.
While your brake system is designed to withstand intense amounts of heat, everything has a breaking point. As the brake pads wear down, the responsiveness wanes, and you might start hearing funny squealing sounds.
Regular inspections will ensure that every point in your braking system is operating at maximum capacity. You can also change your driving patterns so you’re not riding the brakes. Give yourself plenty of room between you and the car in front of you, so you’re not tapping or slamming on the brakes.
Cold weather can impact the undercarriage
Colorado driving is a consistent challenge of navigating whatever Mother Nature has to dish out. When ice or snow is in the forecast, the city moves into action, adding things like mag-chloride to the streets, and sanding and adding de-icer to slippery spots to help keep you safe.
All of that takes its toll on your undercarriage.
It builds up in every nook and cranny it can find. All of those chemicals can accelerate rust and corrosion, damaging individual parts and components.
The most obvious signs come in the form of rust. You may see evidence if you perform a visual check. If you don’t clean the chemicals away shortly after they are applied, they can continue to build (and continue to damage) on every part underneath your vehicle. It can impact your braking ability, the way your emergency brake works, cause parts to rattle and fall off, and decrease the functionality of your vehicle.
On those 70 degree days that fall in between storms, it’s a good idea to head to your local car wash and give the undercarriage a good cleaning. Regular inspections are also a good way for allowing a mechanic to take a look underneath and ensure every part is still in good working condition.
Has winter weather impacted your brake system?
March is the snowiest month in Colorado. Here along the Front Range, snow is possible almost every month of the year. And when you take a ride into the mountains, road conditions can change quite rapidly.
One of the most important systems on your vehicle is the brakes. If it’s been a while since you’ve had them checked, now may be the time.
A harsh winter can lead to car problems you might not notice until they show up in a big way. Preventative maintenance is the easiest way to ensure you and your passengers stay safe.
The next time you’re out driving, pay attention to what your car is trying to tell you. Does it squeal, squeak, or bang? Do you sense your brakes take a little longer to engage? Do you notice a funny smell, or see potential problems as you walk around your car? Warning signs are there for a reason. They’re designed to give you a chance to bring your car in before bigger problems arise.
Whether you head to the hills for ski weekends, or simply drive to work every day, the Colorado winters can do a lot of damage to your vehicle.
Make today the day you fight back against everything this winter dished out. Cold weather can impact your brake system in harmful ways. An inspection will ensure it’s still driving well.