No matter what time of year it is, there’s no doubt about it: Winter is coming or it’s upon us already. With the inevitable cold snap that comes our way several times a year, many people may be wondering about how best to protect their cars. More specifically, some might worry about the gas that is inside their car or stored in their garages. You may have even found yourself wondering if gasoline freezes and the short answer is, yes, it can. However, yours probably won’t and here’s why.
The Freezing Point Of Gasoline
Although the exact temperature that gasoline freezes will be dependent upon components inside the gas, the highest temperature that any gasoline will freeze would be -40°C (or -40°F). Some gases don’t even freeze until they reach -129°C (or -200°F), so unless you live in Antarctica or Siberia, you probably don’t have to worry about your gasoline freezing.
The Bad News
Now, here’s the bad news. Even though your gas probably won’t end up freezing in the brutal winter, the weather can still cause huge issues with your gas tank and car in general. Even if it doesn’t freeze, you may encounter snow and sleet, which can create condensation and can slowly seep into your gas tank when it melts.
If you do end up getting any water in your gas tank, it will freeze. Also, just because your gasoline doesn’t freeze doesn’t mean that it will always stay perfectly fine. Sometimes cold weather can cause the elements that form the gasoline (like the octane, ethanol, heptane, toluene, and other hydrocarbons and additives) to break down. If that happens your gasoline will turn into a useless putty. In essence, it doesn’t freeze like an ice cube per se, but the elements that make up the gas change will change properties over time.
Freezing Fuel Lines
There are a few other problems to worry about when you’re about to encounter some super cold weather. It is not so much your gas tank that you need to fret over, but rather your fuel lines. These are the hoses that move the gasoline throughout the car. These lines are usually metallic and very thin, which increases the chance of whatever is inside them freezing during a cold spell.
On the off chance that this happens, your fuel filter should strain out most of the hardened pieces. However, after a while that could end up obstructing the natural flow of your gasoline, so you will want to get it checked out as soon as possible.
While getting a frozen fuel line repaired and replaced is not too expensive, it’s always annoying to have to spend a day at the mechanic. In order to prevent your fuel lines from freezing, you can easily purchase some fuel-line antifreeze and pour it into your system before the harsh winter storms start rolling in.
Another important factor to consider if you’re worried about your gas or fuel lines being affected by the inclement cold weather would be the amount of gas you keep in your tank. If you want to avoid issues with your fuel tank you will want to keep it as full as you can. The more actual gas it has in the tank, the less moisture it can and will have.
Freezing Battery Issues
There is another significant, and way more probable, issue you might run into during the cold months: A frozen or dead battery. Did you know that the AAA has claimed that during the winter the most calls that they receive are due to dead and non-functioning batteries? That’s not surprising when you consider what a battery is made of and how it works.
The main issue with a battery freezing is that it can crack. Batteries are usually about 75% water and 25% sulfuric acid. So, when it gets to freezing temperatures and below, the water inside expands which can cause the shell of the battery to break. A cracked battery is not something that you can just repair. You will need to purchase a new battery, and a battery plus installation can be costly. You may end up spending around a few hundred dollars for parts and labor!
If you find yourself stuck with a dead vehicle and think your battery might be frozen, take a moment to check it out. If there are no noticeable cracks in the shell, take it out of your automobile and allow it to thaw. You should never try to charge or jumpstart a car battery that is or may be frozen.
Vehicle batteries generally work best in warmer climates, but no matter what, they need to be consistently sparked with some energy (read: used) to keep the ions and chemical components inside working properly.
Make sure that you start and let your car run for at least 30 minutes a few times a week if you’ll be leaving it sitting while it’s extremely cold. Although batteries start to falter more when the temperature drops below 30°F, no matter what the temperature is outside, if you leave a battery alone long enough it will discharge completely.
If you plan to hunker down and be in for a while not driving your vehicle, your best bet would be to purchase a battery charger. This will make it so that you’re able to apply some power to it throughout the winter to prevent it from dying completely. You can even take it out of the car and store it somewhere warmer and more convenient for charging, like the garage.
As a final note on battery tips in the freezing weather, you should just go ahead and replace your battery if it is more than 5 years old. There’s nothing worse than finally being ready to hit the road after hibernating for a few months just to be greeted with a dead battery.
Rubber And Plastic Pieces
Also remember that anything that is rubber or plastic on your car will become more rigid when it’s below freezing. One of the most susceptible parts to look out for would be your wipers. These are crucial to take care of for visibility, especially if you have to deal with any inclement weather conditions like snow and sleet.
You should also make sure to de-ice your windshield before going anywhere. A simple mix of water and rubbing alcohol will do the trick in no time at all. While you have that rubbing alcohol out, go ahead and apply some to a washcloth and rub it along your wiper blades.
This will help thaw them out and prevent them from icing up again and scratching your windshield. If you live in a particularly frosty region, you might want to look into a sturdy pair of hinge-less winter wiper blades as these are free of metal and are specially made for cold climates.
Think About The Tires
Did you know that tires don’t like the cold weather either? A tire can lose as much as 2 psi for every degree dropped below freezing in the outside temperature. Before any cold snaps, make sure to fill your tires up to a few psi above the recommended amount designated by your manufacturer’s manual. This should help bring your tires down to the perfect psi if the temperatures drop abruptly overnight.
How To Prevent Gasoline From Freezing And Protect Your Car During The Winter
So, what’s the best way to prevent your gas and fuel lines from freezing and other damage to your car during those inevitable harsh winter months? The best way to protect your car and any gasoline you may be storing during the frigid winter season would be to keep it in the garage. Typically, a garage that is attached to your home will end up being somewhere between 20 to 30 degrees warmer than outdoor temperatures.
If your garage is not attached, you may want to invest in an electric space heater to set up in there especially if there will be a particularly cold day ahead. If you do live somewhere you might encounter a -40-degree day, most fuel these days include additives to help prevent freezing.
If you’re really concerned about having car problems during the winter, you should consider having a full car evaluation done by a professional mechanic. They can check everything including the belts, fuel lines, brakes, the battery, even your wipers and then let you know if anything needs to be replaced or otherwise taken care of.
If you decide to do this, be prepared for when they come to show you the list of suggestions they have gathered for you because they will inevitably find something that will need to be fixed or updated. Make sure to review the list thoroughly and make an informed decision on what actually needs to be taken care of right away.
On the other hand, maybe just knock it all out if you can. Taking care of it now will make sure everything is as good as new whenever you’re ready to drive your automobile. Having the work done all in one go will also prevent you from worrying about your car throughout the freezing cold winter months. Just that peace of mind will probably be worth it. If you follow these tips you and your car are sure to have a safe winter!