Hard-packed snow not kind to plastic parts
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).
An impact from a frozen snowpack or ice clump could damage plastic parts on a vehicle.