Hard-packed snow not kind to plas­tic parts

Regina Leader-Post - - DRIVING - BRIAN TURNER Driving.ca

One part of our mod­ern vehicles that win­ter is par­tic­u­larly hard on is all that plas­tic that seems to make up a ma­jor­ity of ex­te­rior body com­po­nents.

Whether air dams on the front lower edge of our bumpers, un­der-en­gine shields or wheel well liners, these of­ten less-sturdy-than-we-ex­pected com­po­nents seem to be mag­nets for ev­ery­thing Mother Na­ture can throw at them. The slight­est im­pact from a frozen snow­bank or ice clump on the road seems to re­duce these func­tional plas­tics to splinters. It ap­pears that al­most any of these com­po­nents (whether on lower-priced main­stream rides or ul­tra­ex­pen­sive lux­ury or SUV units) be­come ex­ceed­ingly brit­tle when the mer­cury dips, so you’ve got a perfect recipe for some ex­pen­sive re­pair bills. You can shake your head — and fists — at au­tomak­ers for pro­duc­ing such anti-Cana­dian win­ter prod­ucts, but they keep hit­ting deal­er­ship lots and our roads ev­ery year, so it’s best to un­der­stand ex­actly what can hap­pen when travers­ing our win­ter roads.

Front-bumper air dams are usu­ally made of a thin plas­tic on most vehicles. If you doubt their fragility, get down and grasp one with your bare hands and try to twist or bend it (with­out snap­ping it loose) and you’ll quickly un­der­stand what a snow-en­larged drive­way curb can do to it when the power and weight of the ve­hi­cle is be­hind it. For­tu­nately most de­signs see these units at­tached to the lower trail­ing edge of the front bumper cover with sim­ple plas­tic push-pin con­nec­tors, so if you’re lucky you’ll only break the air dam in­stead of both it and the bumper cover.

Some own­ers have gone so far as to re­move this unit be­fore win­ter, es­pe­cially if they have had them bro­ken in the past by a par­tic­u­larly steep or rough drive­way en­trance. This is a risky prac­tice be­cause these lit­tle bumper add-ons re­di­rect more cool­ing air to the ra­di­a­tor and, even if it seems frosty out­side to us, an en­gine still needs all the cool­ing it can get.

If you’ve got a ridge of snow at the end of your drive­way, thanks to your friendly neigh­bour­hood road-main­te­nance crews, take the time to clear it with a shovel or snow-re­moval de­vice be­fore blast­ing through it with your wheels. These front plas­tic dams can cost any­where from $100 to $250 to re­place for the av­er­age ve­hi­cle and if one of those fas­ten­ers holds too tightly and it breaks the bumper cover, well, you can add an­other zero to the end of that es­ti­mate.

Un­der-en­gine shield­ing is par­tic­u­larly prone to dam­age from rolling over road de­bris (read: frozen chunks of ice) that of­ten falls from the un­der­car­riage of vehicles, es­pe­cially on rougher roads. While some may ques­tion their use­ful­ness in im­prov­ing fuel mileage by pro­vid­ing bet­ter air flow un­der the ve­hi­cle, you can’t ques­tion their value in keep­ing lighter snow from get­ting up into the en­gine bay. Get enough of this white stuff where it doesn’t be­long and it can cause me­chan­i­cal and elec­tri­cal prob­lems.

One that takes most driv­ers by sur­prise is when an ex­te­rior en­gine drive belt comes off its pul­leys af­ter snow got sucked into the works. And if you’re driving with a piece of this shield hang­ing down, it can eas­ily get caught on the road sur­face, risk­ing other dam­age un­der the hood. If you’re caught in this sit­u­a­tion, a few plas­tic zip ties of var­i­ous sizes can make for a quick tem­po­rary re­pair un­til you get a shop ap­point­ment ( just make sure you don’t at­tach them to or near any mov­ing parts).

STU­ART DRY­DEN/FILES

An im­pact from a frozen snow­pack or ice clump could dam­age plas­tic parts on a ve­hi­cle.

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