It’s not too late for winter car care
December 13, 2000
Cold weather has been consuming Northwest Colorado, and for some people, getting cars to moan to life on frigid December mornings might be a chore.
There are a few helpful tips motorists can use to make their cars a little more reliable during winter weather.
J.B. Chapman at Chapman Automotive said the last couple of months have been extremely busy for himself and his crew.
“It has been crazy since the first storm,” Chapman said. “We’re going solid for 12 hours a day, or 14 in some cases.”
Chapman said his staff of five technicians is seeing everything from situations where people have procrastinated putting their snow tires on, to batteries without enough juice for the cold weather.
There are some precautions drivers can take to keep their autos on the roads and out of the long repair lines, Chapman said.
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He explained that checking the battery to see if it has enough cold cranking amps; checking coolant levels; installing studded, ice or snow tires; and making sure the car’s heater is functioning properly are just some of the ways people can be more comfortable driving their cars during the winter season.
Chapman also suggested using engine block heaters if people are able to plug into them.
“They are just a good way of preventing any problems in this type of winter climate,” Chapman said.
The most mechanically-challenged customer that Chapman has seen this winter is one who wasn’t quite sure how the heating system in his car worked.
“He asked us to turn up the thermostat in his car,” said Chapman.
Richard Oberwitte, owner of Arrowhead Auto and Equipment Repair, said they haven’t been swamped yet, but he is looking for things to change once the temperature stays below zero for an extended period of time.
“It really hasn’t been that cold yet, but once it gets below zero for about a week, that is when things really pick up,” Oberwitte said.
Batteries are where most problems begin, Oberwitte said. People try and start their car one day, and when it doesn’t start, they put a cheap trickle charger on it. People usually try to start the cars several times without the help of a mechanic, and by the time they give up and bring it in to a shop the car is a mess, Oberwitte said.
“Its a big vicious circle,” he said. “It usually starts with a cheap battery, an old battery or a non-maintained battery.”
Oberwitte also said engine block heaters are a good idea. They can be purchased for around $30 at auto parts stores and brought to a mechanic for installation.
AAA of Colorado has a list of winter maintenance tips for automobiles to help keep people from being stuck out in the cold.
Check the coolant level to be sure it has the right proportion of coolant to water.
Make sure the battery is charged. If a car has trouble starting in warm weather, it is going to be even harder to start in cold if it starts at all. At 0 degrees Fahrenheit, a car’s battery loses about 60 percent of its strength. Keeping battery terminals clean helps. This can be done by carefully pouring any carbonated beverage over the posts. A load-test performed by a technician will help determine whether a battery is strong enough for winter starts.
Check all hoses and belts If they are old, in pour condition or if the rubber freezes, they could crack, break or burst.
See and be Seen Driver must be able to see dangers to avoid them. Make certain windshield wiper blades and defrosters are in good working order and that washer reservoirs are filled with no-freeze windshield washer fluid.
Tire air pressure drops as the temperature drops, causing many people to drive on under-inflated tires during the winter. Check air pressure, and be sure to have adequate tire tread.
Varying temperatures in Northwest Colorado can lead to frozen car locks. They can be fixed by carefully heating the end of a key with a match or a lighter. De-icer spray also works.