Vehicle maintenance necessary for winter conditions

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Maria-Jose Subiria


While inspecting a 2006 Jeep Liberty, Buddy Scudder, owner of Buddy's Service Center & Tires, in Jonesboro, said his auto-repair shop received a high volume of calls on Wednesday, to schedule service appointments.

Scudder said he expected that to happen after this week's powerful winter storm, since freezing temperatures can damage various parts on a vehicle.

Most of the calls were related to battery problems, he said.

"If you have a battery that is not fully charged, and it goes into extreme cold weather, it will drop the voltage of the battery," Scudder explained. "The oil ... it's like goo [during winter weather], and it requires more current to flow from a battery to crank the engine."

Scudder and other experts are recommending that motorists keep their vehicles well-maintained during winter months to avoid inconveniences that can strike in a season that can often bring challenging storms. Winter this year, they point out, lasts until March 19, on the calendar, anyway.

Winter weather and freezing temperatures can change how a vehicle operates, said Jessica Brady, a spokesperson for American Automobile Association (AAA) Auto Club South.

Brady said motorists should have various items checked during the winter season to prevent numerous inconveniences that can become major problems.

She said if a vehicle is in need of regular service, it is recommended that the owner get it taken care of as soon as possible. Hoses, belts, water pumps and cooling systems that are in bad condition, must be repaired.

"To break down in the summer is one thing, but when it's freezing or snowing outside, breaking down can be another story," she said. "It's best to bite the bullet and get everything fixed now, to be fully prepared for winter driving," she added.

Tire pressure should also be inspected, because low-tire pressure can negatively impact how a vehicle handles and maneuvers, she said.

"Tire pressure drops about one pound per 10 degrees of temperature," she explained. Brady said motorists should ensure that their battery and charging system is operating properly, because batteries lose power as temperatures drop. "So, not only do you need more power to start the engine in winter, you also get less power from the same battery," she said.

The vehicle's cooling system should also be inspected, she advised. The antifreeze used should protect the vehicle at the winter temperatures encountered in the area where the vehicle is driven. A 50-50 mixture of coolant and water is needed for most areas, she said. Proper amounts of coolant, she said, also prevent the cooling system from rusting.

Brady said leaks in the cooling system should be fixed as soon as possible, to prevent overheating and damage to the engine.

Motorists should keep their gasoline tanks close to full, she advised. If a motorist gets stuck or stranded during the winter, the engine will be the only source of heat. "You can run the engine for hours at idle to stay warm -- or as long as you have gas," said Brady. "No harm will be done to the engine."

A snow brush, ice scraper, windshield wiper fluid, jumper cables, a spare tire, blankets, gloves, hats, food, water, a cellular phone, a cell phone car charger, a shovel and a bag of sand, should all be kept in the vehicle during the winter season, she said.

Fred Elsberry, Jr., president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens & Northeast Georgia, Inc., said motorists should seek advice from family members and friends, to find a trusted automobile repair shop, where their vehicles can be maintained.

Another option is to search for a BBB accredited shop, by visiting the BBB web site -- www.bbb.org -- said Elsberry.