Before a new car goes into production it is tested in the most extreme weather conditions imaginable. Theyre driven in frozen Arctic tundra and through deserts that havent seen rain for several years. We take a look at the tough climate tests that are carried out and why theyre necessary.
Volvo insist that every single car they produce has to be able to withstand temperatures of -40 to +60 degrees. Which sounds a bit over the top for conditions in England, but its a global market and every car needs to perform faultlessly through long Norwegian winters, or the perpetual heat of Dubai deserts.
All key parts are relentlessly assessed by getting test drivers to cover huge distances in severe weather conditions. If anything breaks during testing, then that part is modified and tested again until it can withstand almost anything nature throws at it.
Its not just the engine components either, the manufacturers set strict times for the air-conditioning to reach a certain temperature by, the interior to warm up to a comfortable level and for a windscreen to demist. Windscreen wipers and bonnet lids are tested so they dont freeze over, radiator grilles checked so theres no chance of clogging up during a sandstorm.
A problem the manufacturers face is not finding harsh enough weather during testing, the solution is to create it themselves. Yes, they literally concoct their own gale force winds, snowstorms and tropical rainfall! They also simulate baking sunshine and high humidity, every weather condition and temperature can be instigated at the touch of a button.
These tests arent only carried out on luxury or high-end cars, all new cars go through rigorous testing, the new Ford Focus reportedly went through thousands of hours of testing in their weather laboratory in Essex.
Volvo have a similar facility and one test includes leaving the car overnight in a room at -30 degrees, then in the morning forcing the drivers door open, starting the engine and driving off for a days testing. These weather testing facilities have rolling-roads (like a treadmill for cars) so long distance tests can be done quickly and cheaply.
The sounds and smells that extreme temperatures produce are tested in these facilities too. If a part swells due to heat then it could create an annoying rattle or creak. Audi even have a nose team to detect any interior parts giving off nasty smells under different temperatures. If a type of leather or synthetic fabric produces an unpleasant aroma, it will aptly be detected and rejected.
The extent of the climate tests that each car goes through is a testament to the level of care and quality that goes into the production of modern cars.
It may seems totally unnecessary for cars sold in England, but on that one snowy day that comes each year, youll be very glad that those test cars were tortured to breaking point, as your car will start and youll be nice and toasty in no time!