Cold causes auto problems

MIKE KELLY The Marietta Times Mike Herrington checks the battery of a vehicle in a service bay at Schafer Automotive center on Tuesday afternoon. Local garages reported being busy during the protracted surge of cold weather that has hit the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Mobility can be one of the first things that falls victim to cold weather.

Auto repair shops around Marietta on Tuesday reported being swamped by demand for cold-weather repairs.

“The bottom line is, things break when it gets extra cold,” said Kenny Batey at River City Tire and Automotive. “We have problems with heaters, batteries, everything. This weather is really hard on tires, they get brittle, more susceptible to damage when they hit potholes.”

Batey said the shop has been going nonstop since it got cold. An arctic weather system landed in the Valley over the holidays and is expected to remain through the weekend.

“Preventive maintenance is the key,” Batey said. “Try to do things before you have a problem.”

At John’s Auto Repair on Muskingum Drive, Ted Klintworth said he’s had a lot more vehicles in the shop.

“We did three batteries before noon today,” said Klintworth, who has been at the shop since 1991 and owned it for 14 years. “They were older batteries, four to five years old, different brands on three different kinds of car.”

Klintworth said he’s also seen cooling system problems.

“I put a thermostat in one today. If it gets stuck open, you won’t have heat (in the passenger compartment), and that’s pretty crucial at this time of year. If it gets stuck closed, the engine overheats,” he said. “In the fall, I would say, August or September, get your antifreeze checked, get it changed and flushed, clean up your cooling system and get your battery checked, too.”

A vehicle in need of a tune-up that will get by when it’s warmer can fail to start in the severe cold, he said.

“If your air filter or fuel filter needs changed or if your spark plugs are worn out, it won’t start when it’s cold,” he said.

At Schafer Automotive on Greene Street east of town, service advisor Matt Daugherty said the shop was “beyond busy.”

“We’ve got thermostats sticking, lots of batteries, tire problems,” he said.

Owner Michael Herrington, who bought the business in July, said one customer with an aging battery that checked out well before Christmas needed a replacement after the temperature dropped.

“You get below 20 degrees, you can drop a cell right now,” he said.

Herrington said many customers are looking for new tires, having gambled on a mild winter and losing the bet.

“Now, they’re just sliding down the road,” he said.

Winter car care checklist

¯ Battery and charging system: Have the battery and charging system tested by a trained technician.

¯ Battery cables and terminals: Check the condition of the battery cables and terminals. Make sure all connections are secure and remove any corrosion from the terminals and posts.

¯ Drive belts: Inspect belts for cracks or fraying. Don’t just look at the smooth top surface of the belt, but turn it over and check the grooved underside where most belt wear occurs.

¯ Engine hoses: Visually inspect the cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Also, squeeze the hoses to check for any that may be brittle or excessively spongy feeling and in need of replacement.

¯ Tire type and tread: In areas with heavy winter weather, changing to snow tires on all four wheels will provide the best winter traction. All-season tires will work well in light to moderate snow conditions, providing they have adequate tread depth. If any tire has less than 3/32-inches of tread, it should be replaced. Uneven wear on the tires can indicate alignment, suspension or wheel balance problems that should be addressed to prevent further damage to the tires.

¯ Tire pressure: Check tire pressure more frequently during winter months. As the temperature drops, so will the pressures in the tires–typically 1 PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be found on a sticker located on the driver’s side door jamb. And, don’t forget to check the spare.

¯ Air filter: Check the engine’s air filter by holding it up to a 60-watt light bulb. If light can be seen through much of the filter, it is still clean enough to work effectively. However, if the light is blocked by most of the filter, replace it.

¯ Coolant levels: Check the coolant level when the engine is cold. If the coolant level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability. The level of antifreeze protection can be checked with an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store.

¯ Lights: Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, emergency flashers, turn signals, brake lights and back-up lights. Replace any burnt out bulbs.

¯ Wiper blades: Blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace blades that leave streaks or miss spots. In areas with snowy conditions, consider installing winter wiper blades that wrap the blade in a rubber boot to prevent ice and snow buildup that can prevent good contact between the rubber blade and the glass.

¯ Washer fluid: Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a cleaning solution that has antifreeze components for cold weather use.

¯Brakes: Have brakes inspected by a certified technician to ensure all components are in good working order.

¯ Transmission, brake and power steering fluids: Check all fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe levels.

¯ Emergency road kit: Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats; snow shovel, snow brush and ice scraper; flashlight with extra batteries; window washer solvent; cloth or roll of paper towels; jumper cables; gloves, hats and blankets; warning devices (flares or triangles); drinking water and non-perishable snacks (energy or granola bars); extra clothes; first-aid kit; basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench); mobile phone and car charger with important numbers programmed in it, including a roadside assistance provider.

Source: AAA.