How do extreme climates affect trucks?

Extreme Climates and Truck Engines

Weather poses an array of issues for cars and driving. SSLA Weather poses an array of issues for cars and driving. SSLA
Weather poses an array of issues for cars and driving. SSLA

The battery is involved in the engine, of course, and we've already discussed one big weather issue affecting both components: very viscous engine oil. The thicker the oil, the more energy it takes for the engine parts to move in the crankcase. In this way, the engine can lose some of its power output in extremely cold weather.

The bigger engine problems, though, occur in extremely hot climates. First, there's the problem of overheating. An overly hot engine isn't as efficient as a cool one, and stop-and-go driving on a hot day can lead to 200-degree F (93-degree C) engine temperatures. This affects power output.

In 200-degree heat, water in the engine compartment is turning into vapor, which can sometimes block the flow of gas through fuel lines. This further affects power output.

And on a hot day, air is less dense (the colder the air, the more densely packed the air molecules). With fewer molecules in any given amount of air, there's less oxygen available to ignite fuel -- further affecting power output.

This last issue is also a problem on particularly humid days, because water vapor is taking up some of the space that would otherwise belong to oxygen. So a very hot, very humid climate is about as rough as it gets for a hardworking truck engine.

To try to avoid engine failure in extreme climates, you can:

  • Go with a multi-viscosity (winter-grade) engine oil in extreme cold.
  • Go with a high-viscosity engine oil in extreme heat.
  • Check radiator fluids prior to summer months.

With a little knowledge and forethought, truck owners can reduce the chances of getting stranded at the worst possible time.

For more information on extreme climates and automobiles, look over the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Allen, Mike. "Debunking 5 Cold-Weather Car Myths." Popular Mechanics. Jan. 28, 2009.
  • Keep Your Cool While Your Car Sizzles. Exide.
  • Jelling, Jakob. "What to Do When a Hot Engine is Hard to Start?" DoItYourself.
  • Make sure your battery is ready for winter weather. NASCAR.
  • NASCAR engine tests run on made-to-order weather. The San Diego Union-Tribune. Feb. 18, 2006.
  • The Nuts and Bolts of Batteries. Exide NASCAR Extreme.
  • Summer Heat Can Leave Motorists Stranded. PRNewswire. Aug. 13, 2007.,+01:57+PM
  • Tips to Make Your Car's Battery Last Longer. Automotive Online. Feb. 26, 2009.
  • Why does my boat perform differently on a hot day verses a cool evening? Mercury Marine.