Winter driving is challenging for drivers as well as the components that power their vehicles.  It is in your interest to take a close look at your vehicle’s engine hoses and belts prior to the transition from fall to winter.  Here’s why.

Recognize the Importance of Belt and Hose Checks Before Winter

The drop in temperatures causes the rubber on engine belts and hoses to deteriorate.  Pop open the hood, take a close look at the belts/hoses and you might spot some problems.  In particular, cracks, bulges, soft spots, loose connections, and any components that have stretched are cause for concern.  If you spot any such issues, perform the necessary replacement as soon as possible.  However, checking the hoses and belts merely one time at the start of winter is not enough.  Be sure to take a second and third look at the hoses and belts as the winter progresses so you can make a safe and seamless transition to spring.

Why Winter Temperatures Pose Problems for Engines

The severe cold ushered in by the winter season is a direct threat to your vehicle’s engine hoses and belts.  The freezing cold temperatures make it that much more likely that the hoses and belts will falter.  If your vehicle’s fan belt or radiator hose fails in the winter, you will face an emergency situation that puts you and your loved ones in harm’s way. 

An engine belt that does not function as it should, will lead to a battery discharge and possibly even a complete failure.  If a hose is damaged and leaks, it will not be able to safely deliver pressurized coolant to or from the radiator.  Hoses also serve the purpose of functioning as a shock absorber that makes it easier for the engine and hose connections to work as designed for as long as possible.

Carefully Analyze all Engine Belts and Hoses

A superficial examination of your engine’s belts and hoses prior to the winter is not enough.  You will also need to turn over the belts after giving your engine some time to cool so you can get a good look at the underside.  If you spot cracks, it is a sign the belt has aged or has flexed to the point that it needs replacement.  Any glazed areas of the sidewalls due to the aging process or oil exposure are also cause for concern.  Edge cords that are exposed or display uneven wear as a result of wobbling or a misalignment of the pulleys indicate replacement will be necessary. 

When examining the engine hoses, zero in on areas that look cracked.  Weathering, the aging process, and heat during operation can lead to cracking that necessitates replacement.  Hose swelling and bulging resulting from grease and/or oil exposure are also a sign that the hose should be replaced prior to the grueling winter ahead.  Even grease/oil exposure that leads to sponginess is a red flag that should necessitate replacement.  If you find the hose has burst due to aging or heat, replace it right away.

Pay close attention to radiator hoses.  If these hoses are not flexible, it is a sign that replacement might be necessary.  The pinching of the radiator hose should not cause it to stick together.  Take a close look to see if there is any swelling by the area where the radiator hose connects to the engine.  If there is any swelling in the hoses that transmit brake fluid and power steering fluid, prompt replacement will be necessary.

The Moral of the Story: Don’t Assume Your Engine Belts and Hoses are Infallible

There is a common misconception that modern engine hoses/belts are built to last for decades.  Though today’s automotive hoses and belts are built better than those of yesteryear, the temperature under the hood has also increased in recent decades, making this space that much more strenuous.  The bottom line is the engine’s hoses and belts are subjected to considerable pressure when the vehicle is operating.  If the belts are even slightly compromised, they will struggle or fail to start the alternator and facilitate water pump operation during the winter.  Hoses transmit essential anti-freeze, brake fluid, gas, and air, each of which is particularly important for engine functionality during the winter. 

Recognize the fact that the winter season will cause your vehicle’s hoses and belts to change in temperature and be subjected to additional stress.  The flexing of the rubber that comprises these components will cause additional wear that gradually leads to damage and failure.  Replace all faulty and worn hoses and belts prior to the start of winter and you will be able to confidently transition from autumn to winter without even the slightest worry about your engine’s functionality.