Gearing up for winter

Mechanics offer tips to help keep vehicles on the road

With hints of winter blowing around or frosted on windshields in the morning, area automotive repair shops are getting busy.

And mechanics are starting to ask to the same annual questions: Would you rather spend some money now or pay us later when your vehicle is broken and just frozen dead?

"There are a lot of knee-jerk reactions," said J.B. Chapman, with Craig Chapman Automotive Service Center. "People lease more these days and used to take better care of their cars."

Getting a car ready for the winter months can be an expensive, yet critical task, said Chapman, a lifelong Craig resident among many who will attest to one unavoidable winter reality it gets really cold.

"Minus 60 in the 1980s," Chapman said of one season. "But from most years, there's a good chance that you'll see minus 25 here."

For starters on getting cars ready, he suggests paying close attention to the strength of a car's anti-freeze. Thicker anti-freezes, best used in cars during the hot summer months, should be replaced before winter's fury with anti-freeze that has a thinner consistency, such as 5W-30, he said.

"It allows the engine to turn over easier," Chapman said.

Just as, or perhaps more important, several mechanics recommend having block heaters installed next to engines, keeping the critical parts alive and well for that morning engine crank.

"It's a lot less stress on the engine when the parts aren't as cold," Chapman said of the heaters, which run between $100 and $150, depending on the vehicle and the location of the engine.

The heaters should also ensure reasonable temperatures for a car's anti-freeze and oil, he said.

"It's very important in this country," said Tony Balleck, a mechanic with Rocky Mountain Auto and Muffler. "Particularly if you don't have a garage."

Snow tires, seemingly a no-brainer, still are hardly universal on vehicles around town as they slosh there way through the white stuff.

"I've seen people driving around here with all-season tires, but I wouldn't," said Balleck, who was also born and raised in the area.

Bottom line for a winterized car is to take it in for a check-up. Somewhere.

"Check the belts, hoses and make sure the battery and starter system are in good shape," Balleck said.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.

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