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The Surprising Benefits of Cold Weather and Winter Driving

BY: Chris Brown
Woman cleaning snow off her car

If you’ve been driving for any amount of time, you’ll be aware that weather and temperature can significantly affect how your vehicle performs. But while winter driving certainly has its dangers, you might be surprised to hear that it can actually enhance the driving experience in a number of ways.

Here, we’ll look at how cold weather impacts your engine, the benefits of winter tires, and even some unique winter driving experiences you can enjoy. Keep reading for everything you need to know.

Enhanced Vehicle Performance in Cold Conditions

Colder weather brings with it a slew of driving disadvantages — but there are a few ways it can be good news for car owners. Contrary to common belief, lower temperatures can have a beneficial effect on your vehicle’s performance.

Of course, it may take your vehicle a little longer than usual to reach optimal running temperature, but once it does, there’s little to no risk of overheating (providing your coolant is topped up to the correct levels). Heat can also wear away hoses and may harm your radiator. This is a real problem during summer months, with the potential to cause extreme damage to your engine or even a fire.

In a similar way, the colder weather will also be kinder to your tires. Lower temperatures equal lower pressure, which means you’ll need to top up to the correct PSI, but your tires will appreciate being cool. When the weather is warmer, tire pressure can increase significantly, potentially resulting in a blowout. Blowouts are one of the most dangerous problems that can occur out on the road, especially if your vehicle is at speed when it happens.

The Advantages of Winter Tires

The most common recommendation for winter driving is switching to winter tires. Manufacturers generally recommend that you do this once temperatures drop to around 46°F/7°C. Winter tires are specially designed to perform well in winter conditions, providing better braking performance on snowy and icy roads. Their deeper tread pattern is also great for clearing away slush and digging into snow for better traction.

Another reason they’re so effective in colder weather is because they’re made from a specific rubber compound that stays soft and flexible at low temperatures for better vehicle control. It’s not advisable to use winter tires in warm weather, however, as the softer compound will wear out much more quickly and need replacing sooner. Switching tires depending on the season is essential to effectiveness, keeping you safe on the road and ultimately saving you money.

Engine Efficiency and Cold Weather

While there are, of course, some benefits to driving in cold weather, these are unfortunately outweighed by the overwhelming downsides. One major disadvantage is the impact of cold weather on your engine’s efficiency. When your vehicle first starts up on a frosty morning, engine oil and other drive-line fluids will be very cold, increasing engine and transmission friction. This time spent driving at less-than-optimal temperatures forces your engine to work much harder as it tries to warm up, using much more gasoline in the process.

To improve engine efficiency during winter (and therefore fuel economy), it’s recommended that you:

  • Store your vehicle in a warmer place (e.g., a garage) to increase the starting temperature of your engine.
  • Combine trips when possible to reduce driving time with a cold engine.
  • Don’t idle the car for more than 30 seconds to warm it up; it will warm up faster by driving it.
  • Use the oil your vehicle manufacturer recommends for cold-weather driving.

Unique Winter Driving Experiences

Colder weather offers an opportunity to truly test your skills behind the wheel, and nearly every luxury vehicle brand offers some sort of winter driving experience in a frosty corner of the globe. The most unique include:

Lamborghini Winter Accademia

Where: Aspen and Italy

You might not have realized it, but most Lamborghini’s feature all-wheel drive systems, making them just as at home on a frozen lake as they are on a race track. Zip around like James Bond at their winter programs in Aspen or Italy, with two levels of training on offer.

Audi Ice Experience

Where: New Zealand

Audi pioneered all-wheel drive technology after introducing its Quattro system in 1980. From a private ice field at their Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds, you’ll learn all there is to know about navigating the endless whiteness from behind the wheel of one of their iconic machines.

BMW Snow Drift Training

Where: Polar Circle

If anything is built to perform in winter weather, it’s an all-wheel drive BMW — but top-tier tools aren’t much use if you aren’t sure how to make the most of them. This training course may be a little less exotic than others available, but it will teach you crucial skills for driving in adverse conditions.

AMG Winter Sporting

Where: Sweden

The Mercedes-Benz high-performance division operates a luxurious winter driving experience from its private lodge in Arjeplog, Sweden. Most people will want to take a spin in one of the famed sports cars but don’t forget about the powerful G-Class SUV.

6 Other Cold Weather Benefits

Cold weather can benefit your car, but did you know it can benefit you, too? That’s right, lower temperatures can actually be good for your health. For example:

  1. You aren’t as prone to allergies: When plants aren’t making pollen, allergy sufferers can breathe easily.
  2. Reduced inflammation: Like putting a cold compress on an injury, lower temperatures benefit inflammation and pain. One study even found that runners exposed to cold temperatures recover faster from workouts.
  3. Increased fat burn: For anyone looking to burn off body fat, colder temperatures can help you do that. Exercising in cold weather boosts your body’s energy expenditure for hours afterward, burning more calories.
  4. Improved brain function: Evidence suggests that our brains work better at cooler temperatures.
  5. Fewer bug-borne diseases: Pests like mosquitoes and ticks hide away in the winter, drastically reducing the risk of Lyme disease, Zika virus, and other illnesses.
  6. Better emotional health: We tend to stay indoors during winter, spending quality time with friends and family. This can incredibly benefit our emotional health, reducing stress and making us feel happier.

Cold Weather FAQs

If you still have some questions about cold weather and driving, you should find the answers right here:

Is cold weather good for your car?

Yes and no. Moderately cold weather can be good for your car in that it’ll be less likely to suffer damage from overheating (which can be a real problem in summer). On the other hand, extreme cold can put greater strain on components and reduce fuel economy. A very cold engine will have significantly reduced efficiency and need to work harder to reach optimal temperatures… so it could still overheat.

At what cold temperature should you not drive your car?

There’s no set cold temperature at which you shouldn’t drive your car, but we can estimate when it wouldn’t be wise to. For example, at around 20°F below zero, regular oil would become so thick that the engine’s oil pump may struggle even to pick it up and circulate it. Your gasoline may freeze if you live somewhere where temperatures sink to 100°F below zero.

Why is cold air better for cars?

Cold air keeps engine temperatures down, which prevents overheating. During the summer months, excessive engine heat can wear away hoses and may harm your radiator, leading to coolant leaks that can cause extreme damage to your engine or even a fire.

What is an extended warranty, and why do I need one?

The AAA recently put the average annual cost of car ownership around the $12,000 mark, and that figure is only expected to get higher as the years go by. The majority of money you will spend on your car will no doubt go on unexpected repair bills, but with an extended auto warranty watching your back, your provider will cover these for you instead.

Traditional extended warranties are purchased directly from your auto manufacturer or car dealership, but the universally preferred option is a vehicle service contract (VSC) from a third-party provider. This is because third parties are incentivized to offer almost like-for-like coverage at an even better price point.

They also often throw in extra perks to sweeten the deal. Unlike extended warranties, you can have work carried out at the certified auto shop of your choice (rather than being tied to dealerships), and you can purchase a VSC regardless of your factory warranty status.

As winter rolls in, colder temperatures will strain your vehicle’s components, putting you in the danger zone for parts failure. And when some repairs can set you back hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars, investing in coverage really is a no-brainer.

Embrace the Cold with Confidence

Hitting the road in winter weather can be fun and liberating, but nothing ruins a day of driving quite like breaking down. If you do, you can bet it will be at the worst possible moment, leaving you stranded far from home and faced with a repair bill you couldn’t afford. To protect their finances from the rising cost of car ownership, drivers across America are taking out extended warranties, more accurately called vehicle service contracts. And Endurance is your top choice.

From our headquarters in Northbrook, Illinois, we’ve been offering auto protection to U.S. drivers for over 15 years. Our commitment to top-quality customer service has won us many awards and earned us the title of the country’s most trusted warranty provider.

We have a wide range of plans designed to cater to almost anyone, including casual commuters, summer roadtrippers, rideshare drivers, and even select luxury vehicle owners. Our eligibility and flexibility are unrivaled, so if our base plans don’t quite meet your needs or budget, we’ll put together a bespoke plan that does.

The good stuff doesn’t end at quality coverage — we also throw in some of the best benefits around. Every Endurance plan comes with standard 24/7 roadside assistance, trip interruption costs, and rental car reimbursement. If that wasn’t enough, all new customers also receive a year of our Elite Benefits package, adding on tire repair/replacement, key fob replacement, total loss protection, and more. Just pay a small activation fee, and the perks are all yours.

Across the web, we’re consistently rated by experts as the best auto warranty provider in the country. But you don’t need to take their word for it — we also have thousands of five-star reviews from happy customers on sites like Trustpilot. Take a look, and when you’re ready to find out more, get in touch with our team at (800) 253-8203 to request a FREE quote, or shop online to see your price now.

Our extended warranty blog is also home to lots more articles just like this one, so head on over if you’d like to do some more reading.

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