How to winterize your car

Sara Macho

Gerard Soboslay, of Flynn’s Tire & Auto Service, mounts winter tires as part of the winterization process. Flynn’s Tire & Auto Service accepts FlashCash. DAVID ANTHONY RANUCCI | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

White stuff. Powder. Flakes. Snow, snow, snow.

Whatever the name, the winter season Ohioans so lovingly look forward to is quickly approaching.

With daytime temperatures already beginning to dip into the 30s and the first snowfall in the history books, it’s about that time to break out the hot chocolate and winter outerwear.

But don’t disregard preparing another aspect of the cold months that lie ahead: vehicle maintenance.

Between the normal day-to-day activities that flood students’ agendas, it can be difficult and even financially tricky to winterize your car.

“I change my oil regularly, but I don’t really do anything else unless a problem arises,” said Kelli Ciola, junior art history major.

And waiting until a problem arises is exactly the mistake many drivers make, according to area auto store employees.

“Right around now is the ideal time to start winter maintenance,” said Jay Petz, an employee at Advanced Auto Parts. “You definitely want to do it before the first cold snap comes around.”

According to Petz, winterizing a car can include many aspects, but above all, checking the anti-freeze levels, which is a water-based liquid coolant used in automobile engines that inhibits corrosion in cooling systems and ensures a healthy engine, is a must.

A gallon of anti-freeze can be bought at Advanced Auto Parts for roughly $8, Petz said. Failing to check the anti-freeze can cause extreme damage to the engine and radiator, he added.

In addition, mechanics also recommend checking the battery as soon as cold weather strikes.

Dan Gavinesky, 34-year mechanic and store manager of Napa Auto Parts located on West College Avenue, said if a battery is three or more years old, it should be replaced quickly. Batteries naturally discharge the colder they get, he said.

“At 32 degrees a battery will lose at least half its power, no matter how good it is,” Gavinesky said. “A battery can freeze if it discharges completely.”

Another important step in winterizing vehicles includes inspecting tire pressure.

“Tire pressure is pretty critical in the winter because every time there is a 10 degree drop in temperature, tires will lose one pound of air,” Gavinesky said. “If you keep your tires under-inflated, you can lose traction and overheat them, causing the tires to blow up.”

Along with checking tire pressure, Sgt. Donnie Brown of the Kent Police Department, suggested replacing tires to better accommodate winter road conditions.

“During the first heavy snow, there are always a lot of accidents because people still drive like they would under normal conditions,” Brown said. “If your tires aren’t good, you’re going to slide.”

Brown also suggested driving more defensively and allowing more braking time.

Other basic tips to keep in mind this winter include stocking up on washer fluid and replacing regular wiper blades with winter ones that have a thick rubber coating, Petz said.

It is also important to carry an emergency kit in vehicles. This kit should contain jumper cables, a warm blanket, food and water items, flares and a flashlight.

For students low on cash, these winterizing tips may seem extreme. But Petz recommended judging maintenance on how much a car will be driven this winter.

“Many students drive long distances when going home for Thanksgiving and winter break,” he said. “Judge how far you’re going. For some students, it might be an hour before someone drives by to help them out if they break down.”

Contact features reporter Sara Macho at [email protected].