Winter car care keeps vehicles, people safe

Ben Wolford

Maintaining your vehicle essential to avoiding costly accidents and repairs

Freshman nutrition major Corrin Hess fills up her car with antifreeze. Firestone Complete Auto Care service manager Chris Sutton said it’s important to make sure the freeze protection is good during the winter months. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY SAM TWAREK | DA

Credit: DKS Editors

Seasonal depression. Spiking cough drop sales. The Browns’ offseason underway.

Ah, the timeless signs of January in Northeast Ohio.

And then there are the other frustrations winter can bring: frozen car doors, salty windshields and dead batteries.

To make winter driving a happier experience, service manager Chris Sutton of Firestone Complete Auto Care in Kent offers some general tips. He said one of the most important things to do is check the antifreeze.

“That’s what most people think of when they think of getting your vehicle winterized,” Sutton said. “Check the antifreeze to make sure the freeze protection and the cleanliness is good.”

Antifreeze is the main ingredient in regulating a car’s engine temperature, and depending on how cold it is outside, a higher or lower freezing point may be used.

No. 2 on the checklist: “Think about your battery. Do a battery check and make sure the terminals are clean,” Sutton said.

When the temperature outside gets colder, a liquid-cell battery requires more amperage to maintain a certain level of voltage. An older battery is less likely to respond in single-digit temperatures than a new one.

Larry Emling, manager of Kent State Parking Services, said winter brings a higher demand for jumper cables on campus.

“During the cold weather months we see an increase in jump-starts,” he said. “That’s just because vehicle batteries are older, or if people leave their car over the weekend, the battery gets cold.”

Aside from the more practical aspects of winter car care, there are safety precautions to consider.

“Make sure your tire pressure is good and make sure your tread depth is good so you’ve got traction,” Sutton said.

He suggested a tire change when the tread depth falls to four-thirty-seconds of an inch in the winter.

But when Alice Ickes, a Kent State Police Services safety specialist, thinks of winter driving safety, she thinks of the lazy window scraper.

“Just before the end of last semester we had a pretty bad accident, and it was because someone was driving along and had not cleaned their windshield and finally came to the realization that, ‘I can’t see,'” Ickes said.

And it’s also a good idea to buy windshield washer fluid that can handle lower temperatures so it doesn’t crystallize as soon as it hits the window, Sutton said.

“This time of year we are so lax in taking care of our automobiles,” Ickes said. “We need to be proactive in taking care of our cars.”

As for cold symptoms and the Cleveland Browns, spring is only a few months away.

Contact features reporter Ben Wolford at [email protected].