What temperatures start to damage cars? (high and low)

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6 min read

Whether you’re road tripping, moving across the country, or just driving in a world with unpredictable weather—you gotta be on the lookout for extreme weather conditions that could damage your car. This is especially true when your car is old. So before you take a long trip, or venture out in extreme condition, get that baby checked out by a professional.


Most experts agree that a car's engine should run between 195 degrees and 220 degrees. Anything below or above this temperature can be bad for your car. It is therefore important to monitor the temperature range in your surroundings and make sure your car is functioning optimally. Here is what you should know about the temperatures that damage your car.


Cold temperatures (less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit) make your battery work harder, so it could have trouble doing things like starting the car, or running the heat. Drivers in Alaska, North Dakota, Maine, Minnesota, Wyoming, Montana, or Vermont should definitely be cautious during those cold winter months. If you don’t know how to check the health of your car battery, we recommend checking in with your mechanic before the cold weather hits, especially if you have an older car.

On the other hand, hot temperatures (anything above 190 degrees Fahrenheit inside the battery) affect the chemical processes inside your battery, making it difficult for the battery to charge and produce enough power. This can even be worsened by increased demand for energy by the car's air conditioning system, windows, and electrically-operated convertible roofs. This means that the battery will struggle during prolonged spells of hot weather. We’re talking to you, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, New Mexico, and Alabama.

According to AAA, car batteries typically last from three to five years, but that varies with your location (weather).


Tires usually don't get along with very low or very high temperatures. The hot temperatures create hot air inside the tires, and this hot air expands and causes over-inflation and, in extreme cases, it causes bulging of the tire wall, which could lead to blowout.

In cold weather, air pressure in tires decreases and results in uneven deflation and inflation. For every 10° fluctuation in air temperature, your car’s tire pressure will adjust by about 1 psi, give or take. So let’s say the weather drops 20° from the last time you filled and measured your tire pressure, you can expect tire pressure to also drop about 2 psi.

There are substantially more car breakdowns related to tires and this mostly happens during extreme heat or extreme cold weather. Most people are not aware of this phenomenon and don’t check their car’s handbook for tire pressure settings, which vary in hot and cold. The more you know!

engine oil

At high temperatures (above 230 degrees Fahrenheit under the hood), the engine oil will not function effectively and efficiently, which will eventually damage the engine because internal parts are not properly lubricated. A hot engine needs all the lubrication it can get, so being on top of engine oil changes is especially important during the summer months. A hot engine will end up burning internal parts and causing an engine knock.

On the other hand, a cold engine cannot start at all. An engine requires a certain level of heat in order to start and function properly. Though some people believe it's necessary to use a thicker grade of oil for summer and thinner oil for winter, this isn't the case for modern motor oils.

The most important thing is to change the oil regularly and use the oil weight recommended in your owner's manual. With the extra miles you may put in your car during the summer road trips, this may mean more frequent changes.

have your car's belts and hoses inspected

If you're a car expert, you can inspect the belts and hoses yourself, but if you're not, you're better off having a professional mechanic look them over. Intense heat (above 195 degrees Fahrenheit) may cause cracking, blistering, and other damage to your belts and hoses, and they may need to be replaced.

checklist to prevent breakdown

No one wants to get stranded on the side of the road. But it happens to the best of us. For best prevention, check your car on the regular:

  • Tire inflation levels
  • Fluids levels (antifreeze, engine oil)
  • Battery function
  • Air conditioning / heat
  • We also recommend keeping a full tank of gas, bc you never know

If you do break down, being prepared is the key. Having an emergency kit in your car is a GREAT idea, with the #1 most important thing being water.

effects of storing an old car

When you store an old car for an extended period, its value decreases gradually. The tires will get damaged from carrying the weight for a long time, the battery will drain and malfunction, and the engine's oil will either thicken or loosen depending on the weather conditions.

In extremely hot environments, like Phoenix, batteries are likely to die faster, dashboards, seats and window flashings are likely to deteriorate quickly. In extremely cold climates, like Detroit, belts can become brittle, fluids can thicken, and the battery will also malfunction in the cold.

Having a garage is a luxury, however, if you want to avoid car depreciation in extreme temps, it might be worth it in the long run.

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