Auto Parts,  Cars

Can a Car Horn Freeze? And Will it Get Damaged?

Car horns are essential to safe driving, so it’s only natural to worry if they would be damaged or disabled in freezing winter weather. Many people have had a few close calls on the road where their car horn probably saved them from a nasty accident. Nobody wants their car horn to stop working during winter weather when driving can be especially dangerous.

Can a car horn freeze? Yes, a car horn can freeze and could temporarily malfunction, but it won’t be damaged. If you are preparing to drive in sub-freezing weather, test your horn before heading out to make sure that it works. If your horn isn’t working, give your car additional time to warm up and thaw your horn.

Extremely cold weather might also cause your car to honk all by itself overnight. In that case, you might have a few older parts that cold is affecting and might need replacing. We will walk through what exactly causes a car horn to malfunction and other things that may go wrong with your car in cold temperatures.

Why Might Freezing Weather Cause A Car Horn to Malfunction?

Cars covered in snow during snowstorm in Montreal

It’s great to know that cold weather won’t permanently damage a car horn, but it is important to know more about why a horn might be malfunctioning and what you can do to prevent that.

The horn relay, the bit of circuitry that tells your horn to honk after you press on the steering wheel, can become coated in ice overnight during freezing weather. Ice is a bad conductor, so your horn won’t be able to honk until that ice is removed or thawed.

To be safe, you can always give your horn a test before driving and letting your car warm up a bit should be enough to solve the problem.

The guys over at Car Talk, Tom and Ray, had some answers as to why a car might be honking all by itself during cold weather.

Cold weather can cause parts of your car to minutely shrink. Older horn relays, horn pads, and the springs holding up those pads can shrink enough so that they accidentally set off your horn. New replacement parts should be strong enough that some shrinking won’t affect their usage.

How to Protect Your Horn From Cold Weather

Garage doors for two cars

One of the best things you can do to keep your car horn from malfunctioning due to cold weather is to keep it in a garage. Garages are warmer than outside and are protected from sources of ice like snow, rain, and dew.

If you don’t have a garage, you can take your car to a mechanic prior to the worst of winter weather to make sure that any maintenance is kept up to date. This can help prevent your various relays, springs, and other parts from going bad in both your horn and other parts of your vehicle.

How Else Might Cold Weather Affect My Vehicle?

Ice covered car

The aftermath of a fierce winter storm, silver car encased in icicles

Cold weather can affect many of your car’s systems, so here are some things to watch out for:

  • The air in your tires shrinks during cold weather, reducing your tire pressure.

  • The rubber in all-season tires can lose their grip in freezing weather.

  • Motor oil thickens in cold weather, making it harder to start the engine.

  • Windshield wipers can become brittle in cold weather, causing them to tear or crack.

  • Your windshield will be sensitive and could crack when exposed to excessive heat.

  • Your battery may lose part of its strength in freezing temperatures, making it harder to start the engine.

  • Your engine block will be more vulnerable to damage if your antifreeze isn’t at peak effectiveness.

  • Engine and fan belts can become brittle and snap in cold weather.

  • Salt from the roads can corrode your undercarriage and ruin your paint.

What Can I Do to Keep My Car In Good Shape During Cold Weather?

Working people

Consider taking these steps to avoid most of the trouble and damage that cold weather can cause to your vehicle:

  • Use winter tires: Winter tires are designed to resist the shrinking caused by cold temperatures, so they won’t lose their grip. (see video below)

  • Use thinner motor oil: If you live in an area with particularly cold winters, switching to thinner motor oil, or synthetic motor oil, can help keep your engine running smoothly. If you are unsure which type to get, or if your area gets cold enough to warrant thinner oil, refer to your car’s manual or ask your mechanic. (see video below)

  • Use winter windshield wiper blades: Just as winter tires are designed to better resist the cold, winter wiper blades are designed to get less brittle during cold weather.

  • Don’t pour hot water on your windshield to thaw it: Hot water can cause your frozen windshield to crack, so make sure you only use lukewarm water to avoid any damage. You can also use a homemade or store-bought water and rubbing alcohol mixture to defrost your windshield. Alternatively, an ice scraper should be able to get the job done.

  • Keep your battery healthy: Cold weather can reduce the capacity of your battery, so you may want to consider replacing it if it is more than three years old. Clean and tight terminals and connections will keep your battery working at its best. If your battery does die in the winter, a jumpstart may be able to revive it. In particularly cold areas, a battery warmer can keep your battery from freezing in sub-zero temperatures.

  • Replace your belts as needed: Cold weather can exacerbate the weakness of old belts, so make sure you replace them once they begin to age.

  • Double-check your antifreeze: Old antifreeze and antifreeze with the wrong ratio of antifreeze to water won’t be as effective at protecting your engine. You can test your coolant with an antifreeze hydrometer or have a mechanic check for you. Your antifreeze should be a bright color like pink, green, or blue depending on the brand.

  • Keep your gas tank full: Even though it won’t get cold enough for your gasoline to freeze, water moisture that collects in your tank and fuel line can freeze. The best way to prevent this is by keeping your tank full.

  • Give your car a chance to warm up: Letting your car warm up for a bit can help ensure that any frozen or ice-coated parts of your car, such as your horn, have a chance to warm up and thaw. This can also help prevent various systems, such as your power-steering or transmission from developing leaks from heating too quickly.

  • Wash your undercarriage: If you live in an area where the roads are salted to prevent ice, that same salt can stick to your wheels and undercarriage and corrode the metal there. Washing your vehicle’s undercarriage can remove built-up salt and prevent corrosion.

  • Keep your car in the garage: Your garage is warmer and protected from the elements, this will help reduce the effects of the cold on your vehicle’s various systems.

Using Winter Tires?

What the numbers mean?

Regular Maintenance

Service station at car dealership

Unless you’re a mechanic yourself, you may need some help with things like replacing your belts our selecting the right type of cold weather motor oil. The best way to ensure that your vehicle is ready for any winter woes is to take it to your dealership or preferred auto mechanic.

They should be able to give you the best recommendations for what steps to take to prepare your particular vehicle for the weather in your particular area. A ‘99 Ford pickup in Florida won’t need the same winter preparedness as a new Tesla in Alaska.