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Can My Gas Tank Really Freeze in Winter?

BY: Larry Witherspoon Jr.
A close up image of a person filling up their car with gas with snow and ice on the vehicle.

Winter is in full swing, and the colder months come with freezing temperatures and a unique set of problems for drivers. Not only are the icy roads much more dangerous to navigate, but there’s a whole list of other things to think about too.

People often wonder if their car’s gas and gas tank can freeze in cold temperatures, especially when the temperature drops below zero. If they can, what’s the freezing point, and what issues can it cause? To help you prepare for the season ahead, we’ll look at the facts and other ways you can protect your vehicle from the harsher weather.

Does Gas Freeze in Winter?

Ethanol-based gasoline has an entirely different chemical makeup from water, so it has a much lower freezing point and some antifreeze additives to help against freezing. Fresh water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but the freezing point of gasoline is considerably lower—it would take temperatures to drop to -100 degrees Fahrenheit for gasoline to freeze. So unless you’re living in a place like Antarctica that experiences extreme cold, it’s almost impossible for the gas in your tank will freeze. Additionally, as automotive technology has advanced, so too have components like a vehicle’s fuel injection systems, which help to prevent freezing along with the chemical makeup of gasoline.                                                                                                    

For diesel fuel vehicle owners, things are slightly different. Diesel is much more susceptible to cold than gasoline because its paraffin wax content gives it a higher freezing point. This will start to freeze at the same temperature as water (32 degrees Fahrenheit), which is why winter diesel blends are sold during colder months.

The biggest potential issue is any water or condensation within the fuel system. If this freezes, it can clog the fuel lines or fuel filter, stopping fuel from reaching the combustion chamber—and ultimately stopping your vehicle. Gas or diesel can also separate as temperatures drop. If either of these happens, you may experience performance issues such as the engine turning over but won’t start at all, or it is starting before it sputters and stalls.

10 Ways to Protect Your Car from Cold Weather

Whether it’s a car, truck or SUV, the cold can impact a vehicle any many ways. But, while there’s not a lot you can do to prevent the drop in temperature, there are plenty of ways to ensure your vehicle is protected and well-prepared for winter driving. Here are our top suggestions:

1. Get Your Battery Tested

If a car is a body, the battery is the heart. When it isn’t functioning correctly, the rest of the vehicle fails too, and the low temperature means your battery will work harder than any other time of year. If it’s close to failure already, the cold could push it over the edge, so ensure to test it to see if it’s up to the task.

2. Check Your Windshield Wipers

A man fixing his car's wiper blades in the snow.

Snow and rain are frequent in the winter, and if your windshield wipers aren’t working properly, you won’t be able to see where you’re going. This is a recipe for a severe accident, so don’t wait until you’re on the road to check if your blades are good to go. Test them on your driveway and have replacements fitted if necessary.

3. Switch to Season-Appropriate Tires

Your tires are your only point of contact with the ground, and when it’s likely to be icy, they don’t get much more critical. If you live somewhere prone to heavy snow and sleet, replace your stock tires with a deep-tread winter alternative. Or if it’s a little warmer where you are, you may be OK with an all-season variety.

4. Check Your Car’s Fluids

Every vehicle needs several essential fluids to keep it running between gas, oil, brake fluid, and more. In the winter especially, antifreeze, which can be found in engine coolant, helps stop the water in your engine’s cooling system from freezing. So, while checking your car’s fluids before the winter is ideal, regularly checking them throughout the colder months can ensure your vehicle has everything it needs to stay running.

5. Use the A/C Regularly

It might sound strange to use the AC during winter, but trust us when we say it’s a good idea. The air in your car can become very humid, making your windows fog up, but it also gets trapped inside and damages interior materials. Short bursts of A/C whenever you’re out for a drive will help keep humidity to a minimum.

6. Keep the Exterior Clean

During winter, roads are often covered in salt to melt the ice. Left to sit on your car’s exterior, the salt will rust and corrode the metals, which will ruin their appearance, and may even cause component failure. By cleaning everything regularly—and treating it with protective wax coatings—your vehicle will stay looking and running its best. A cleaner car also has better fuel efficiency.

7. Store It Inside Wherever Possible

A car parked in a parking garage with a protective car cover on.

Keeping your car in a warmer, covered environment will go a long way to protecting it from the elements. Left outside, any snow that falls on top of the vehicle will eventually melt and could lead to moisture damage. Likewise, parking with snow underneath can cause corrosion. If you don’t have a garage, somewhere with an overhead cover is still a good spot.

8. Don’t Defrost Ice with Warm Water

You may be in a rush to get somewhere but never be tempted to defrost windows with warm water. First, the sudden temperature change can cause the glass to crack or even shatter. Secondly, the water can quickly refreeze, covering your vehicle in a dangerous layer of ice. Invest in a windshield cover for the front, and use an ice scraper to get rid of the rest, along with your car’s defrost features.

9. Check Your Gas Tank/Fuel Pump

While you have to deal with extreme temperatures to be dealing with frozen gas, if you have some issues in the winter, it’ll be with your gas tank, gas lines or fuel pump. Cracks and other leaks could lead to condensation or water vapors getting inside the vehicle, which could then freeze over and cause even more problems for you. To avoid this, have a professional mechanic inspect your vehicle before or during the winter, especially if you notice any leaking fluids under your vehicle. It also helps to visit the gas station often, especially if you regularly drive during the winter, as an empty tank or one with low fuel levels could leave your car susceptible to moisture getting in. Instead, try and keep your gas tank full, or have at least half a tank of gas, to help prevent moisture from causing any potential issues.

10. Invest in an Extended Warranty

An extended warranty or vehicle service contract is as good as it gets regarding vehicle protection. The cold puts extra strain on your car, making component failure more likely. Still, an extended warranty will get you back on the road without worrying about repair bills. Many providers, like us at Endurance, offer you extras, including complimentary roadside assistance, towing, trip interruption coverage and even rental car reimbursement. Plus, unlike coverages from automakers or dealerships, you can find more coverage options at a better price, including basic powertrain protection starting as low as just $79 a month with Endurance. You’ll even get a full year of FREE Elite Benefits, including collision discounts, tire coverage and more, regardless of the Endurance coverage you get.

Get Year-Long Protection with Endurance Warranty

No matter how well you protect your vehicle during the rain, snow or sunshine, breakdowns will happen, and your car will need repairs. So when the inevitable occurs, having the right extended warranty or vehicle service contract, like an award-winning vehicle protection plan from Endurance, can help give you peace of mind any time of the year.

So whether you’re looking for near-factory-like coverage for hundreds of parts of your vehicle or basic powertrain protection starting as low as $79 a month, Endurance can get you covered. You can even find plans for vehicles other providers often won’t cover, including select high-end luxury models, high-mileage vehicles, and even those with a salvage or rebuilt title or those used commercially, like for rideshare or delivery services. There’s even a plan to help give you breakdown protection while saving on your car’s yearly maintenance needs.

Plus, regardless of your coverage, you’ll also get complimentary 24/7 roadside assistance, trip interruption coverage, rental car reimbursement and the chance to go to any certified mechanic of your choice. Not to mention being eligible for an entire year’s worth of Endurance Elite Benefits, including even more perks and savings like collision discounts, key fob replacements, tire coverage, and total loss protection.

To learn more about our services and how we can help you, call our team at (800) 253-8203 or request a free, no-obligation quote. You can also find other answers to your biggest car maintenance FAQs and other articles on topics ranging from vehicle buying guides, extended warranty coverage comparison, maintenance how-tos and much more at the Endurance blog.

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