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Winter's 7 damaging effects on your car.

Jordan May 13, 2013
A close up of a car covered with ice in winter.
Everyone knows that Canadian winters can be tough on a vehicle, but does anyone know exactly why? We turned to the experts here at CAA to learn just how the winter season can affect your vehicle’s performance and condition.

Engine air filter.

Your vehicle’s air filter helps to clean the air that passes through the engine area. Throughout the winter, it can pick up and become inhibited by moisture, sludge and dirt.

Solution: Inspect your air filter in the early spring to determine whether it needs replacing.


Though road salt plays a big role in keeping Canadian roads drivable in the winter, many are unaware of its major downside. If left unattended, most types of road salt will slowly eat away at your vehicle’s body, setting the perfect table for a very unwelcomed guest – rust.

Most drivers mistakenly believe that salt stops being a problem once it dries simply because moisture is the active ingredient for a corrosive reaction. This is not true, as the moisture in the air (humidity) is enough to keep the salt eating away.

Solution: Be diligent in removing salt stains from your vehicle before they have a chance to harbor rust.   

Wheel alignment.

Potholes, hitting (or tapping) curbs and even driving over bumpy railway tracks can cause your vehicle’s alignment to shift. Remember: just because you don’t notice it pulling doesn’t mean your alignment is within spec. Your car can be out of alignment and not pull, but uneven tire wear can still occur and reduce handling.

Solution: Have your alignment inspected in the early spring.


Road salt and debris can build up on the brakes causing them to bind, leading the way to uneven and premature wear.

Solution: Have your brakes checked in the early spring.

Tire pressure and condition.

Weather changes affect tire pressure, and that can lead to premature wear and reduced handling. Hitting potholes caused by winter can damage your tire’s sidewall, weakening its overall strength.

Solution: Check for splitting and large bumps in the sidewalls caused by air getting between the layers of rubber.  Many times the damage is on the inner sidewall, not evident at first glance.


Antifreeze has rust inhibitors built into it, but over time these inhibitors can begin to break down into acid that eats away at your hoses, seals and components. Summer is always harder on your cooling system than winter, so a cooling system that worked fine throughout winter may not be able to handle our upcoming warmer climate.

Solution: Check your owner’s manual for intervals to replace your antifreeze.


Winter can wreak havoc on just about every part of your vehicle, so it’s a good idea to have a licensed technician from any of our CAA-Approved Auto Repair Service (AARS) facilities inspect your vehicle for hidden damage and aged parts that may not have survived the cold, harsh weather.

Solution: Find a CAA-Approved Auto Repair Facility.