CARS.COM — Hit the road after a snowfall and it won’t take long for your car’s underbody to look like Han Solo’s tauntaun. Depending on where you live, it could take weeks for Hoth ice-planetlike temperatures to thaw enough to dislodge the snow and ice on its own. And removal by boot, brush or carwash brings temporary relief at best.
But drivers may wonder if snow and ice buildup threatens safety, gas mileage and vehicle longevity. How important is it to keep the underside of your car — and elsewhere, for that matter — clear? Here’s what you need to know.
Moderate Buildup Is Snow Big Deal
Drive on packed snow, and it will cake up in your wheel wells in short order. The good news? Moderate accumulation down there — or elsewhere on the underbody — is relatively benign. Jessica Pawl, a spokeswoman for Honda, said it’s OK to drive with some buildup, as the automaker’s testing confirms “targeted performance and reliability in the most extreme ice buildup conditions.”
Toyota echoed the sentiment. “Regarding snow and ice accumulation in wheel wells or fender liners, Toyota does extensive cold-weather testing in a range of simulated and real environments to ensure the vehicle can be operated safely with buildup, and that buildup will not cause any damage to the vehicle,” the automaker’s Michigan-based research and development team said in an emailed statement to Cars.com.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles spokeswoman Kelley Enright said the automaker recommends customers clean the snow off the wheels. But, she added, FCA’s vehicles “are designed to handle the weight of large buildups of snow.”