Login Register

Winter Breakdowns - problems caused by extreme cold

By Denbury Diesels Ltd  |  Posted: January 19, 2013

Are you prepared for the cold weather?

Are you prepared for the cold weather?

Comments (0)


The last 3 winters (2010 to 2012) were among the worst in living

memory with widespread snow and ice for weeks on end and temperatures regularly

dropping well below -10C.

Records tumbled as the AA had its busiest day ever on Monday 4

January 2010 and then again, less than 12 months later on Monday 20 December

2010 when AA patrols handled more than 28,000 breakdowns.

Battery faults are far and away the most common cause of

breakdowns at this time of year but such extreme weather throws up some unusual

types of breakdown as well

 Frozen screen


Not really a breakdown, unless you keep running the pump until it burns

out and blows a fuse affecting something like the immobiliser system! Use a screenwash

additive all year round - undiluted in winter.

Frozen wipers

Trying to operate windscreen wipers stuck solid to the glass can lead to

blown fuses affecting other more vital systems. If low temperatures are

forecast make sure that automatic windscreen wipers are turned off – so they

don't try to operate when you turn the ignition on. Make sure the wipers aren't

stuck to the glass, before setting off too.

Frozen engines

Due to lack of anti-freeze. Make sure you get it checked regularly and

top-up using a mix of the correct type of anti-freeze.

Stripped teeth on

cambelt causing engine damage

Try to start a car with a frozen waterpump and you could strip the teeth

off the timing belt leading to expensive internal engine damage.

Frozen door locks

and door seals

A squirt of a water-dispersant like WD40 in the locks will help as will

a light smear of Vaseline or silicone polish on the door seals. If snow falls

clear it from the car while still soft rather than leaving it for days on end –

the car will turn into a block of ice.

Frozen ignition


It's hard to keep the inside of the car completely dry when it's cold

and wet outside but it'll help avoid this rare but annoying problem – don't

leave wet clothes or boots in the car overnight.

Windows frozen to

their frame

Windows can become detached from the mechanism inside the door if you

try to power them down while the windows frozen in the frame. Best left until

the car's warmed up and the ice melted.

Diesel fuel waxing

In extreme cold, wax crystals form in

diesel fuel and can block fuel lines and filters. All diesel sold in the UK

between 16

November and 15 March has to meet the 'Winter diesel standard' which ensures protection

against waxing down to -15C. There's not much you can do to avoid it if the temperature

goes really low – apart from using a garage overnight if you have one and

trying to keep the car warm. Electric fuel filter heaters are available.

Electronic parking

brake not releasing

If the driven wheels are on an icy road and can't grip it's possible

that an automatic parking brake won't release.

Frozen rear drum

brakes and handbrake cables

It's good to clean your car regularly through the winter to remove

corrosive road salt but not if you use a hose or pressure washer and blast

water inside brake cables or drums and the temperature drops. A drive after

cleaning can help but it's best to take care when hosing wheel arches or


Frozen alternators

Fortunately very rare, but poor design of under-bonnet drains can lead

to water from the windscreen getting into the alternator and freezing the

rotor. A screaming noise from the 'fanbelt' accompanied by smoke, a burning

smell and a battery warning light on the dash will tell you there's something


Source: theaa.com

If you have any concerns or would like advice please call Denbury Diesels on 01803 220548

Do you have something to say? Leave your comment here...

max 4000 characters