Across the world, millions of people rely on their vehicles to get them safely from point A to point B. That's a tall order under any circumstances, but in the winter - when ice, snow, sleet and cold temperatures threaten driving and vehicle conditions - it's an even bigger task. It's on automakers to ensure their vehicles can handle these adverse conditions not just during one patch of stormy weather but continually throughout the vehicle's life.
For manufacturers, failure to address the unique challenges winter brings can result in unhappy clients, costly recalls and a damaged reputation. Rather than risk those consequences, every automaker should seek third-party environmental testing services from a recognized provider. Here are just a few of the services to look for and how they can each help vehicles stay on the road through the winter:
Thermal shock testing
In physics, thermal shock is the idea that a material can become brittle or crack when exposed to a sudden change in temperature. During the winter, such a phenomenon is common: Windows and windshields might be freezing on the outside but warm on the inside. Additionally, temperature changes cause materials to expand and contract. Over time, those changes can loosen joints, weaken connections and create other unwanted scenarios. Thermal shock testing establishes how well your vehicle's components stand up to temperature changes.
Accelerated life testing
You know those montages in movies or TV shows during which some product is subject to ridiculous stressors, like falling from height, dunking underwater, explosions, and so on? In an exaggerated way, that's what accelerated life testing does. But instead of mimicking Hollywood, the best testing providers will determine what sort of conditions a vehicle might undergo throughout its life. Then the testing group will take that condition to the extreme to get at the underlying performance and predict how the vehicle will stand the test of time. For example, how does the car hold up at minus 20 degrees? Even if the vehicle is unlikely to experience conditions like that, it's important to make sure that temperature wouldn't trigger a malfunction.
Fluid dynamics testing
Vehicle performance depends on the correct behavior of a variety of different fluid systems like antifreeze, oil, gasoline, brake fluid and several others. The law of fluid dynamics has to do in some part with how fluids and gases react to temperature and pressure changes. Winter weather can certainly influence changes in vehicle fluids' behavior, so fluid dynamics testing identifies shortcomings and vulnerabilities that may not otherwise be apparent.
A car's components should all be durable and functional under a variety of conditions, including those that arise during winter weather. Ice clumps and snow drifts certainly affect performance, but drivers should still be confident their vehicle will hold up correctly during snowstorms. Tensile strength is a primary aspect of mechanical testing - identifying any vehicle elements that might break off under stress is necessary to maintain consistent quality.
These four testing procedures are helpful year-round, but especially for ensuring vehicles withstand the unique stress winter brings. Plus, each is part of an overarching commitment to sustaining high-quality standards.