Mechanics give tips on car care during winter

Analicia Haynes, Senior Reporter

On Monday, cars did not start, cars slid off the road, people had to drive less than 15 miles per hour, and students had to wear more than their sweatshirts and sweats.

And with the weather taking a turn as winter arrives early this year, there are several tips students should follow when it comes to maintaining their vehicles.

David Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Automotive Service, and Rob Myerscough, owner of Myerscough Automotive, offered their advice on how to keep up with a car, especially when temperatures hit single digits.

Check Your Battery

Myerscough said that regardless of the snow, this is the time of year where students do not routinely go out and start their vehicles.

That becomes a problem, he said, because when they get ready to head home for the holidays, their car will not start.

Their car battery died, and to avoid this, Myerscough said students should start their cars at least once a week and let them run for about 15 minutes.

Johnson said the first thing everyone should do is make sure their car battery is less than four years old. He said regardless of what the manufacturer might say, if the battery is older than four years, then replace it.

Check Your Tire Pressure

Another big thing is to keep an eye on, Johnson and Myerscough said, is the tire pressure.

Johnson said there is a light on the dashboard of cars that are ten years or younger that lights up when the tire pressure is low.

“Don’t ignore that light,” he said.

Having low or high tire pressure could be dangerous and could damage tires in the long run.

Myerscough said low tire pressure could lead to prematurely wearing out the tire tread and by then new tires are needed.

Johnson recalled a time where a young woman came into the shop and her tires had three times more air pressure in them.

With that much air, the tires could explode if they hit the right pothole at the right time, he said.

With the temperatures dropping to a low of nine degrees Monday night, the tire pressure will also drop about 10 psi, Myerscough said.

Then in the morning, students are in the position they go out to their car and the tire pressure is at 15-20 psi, he said.

Myerscough said that if people are just driving in Charleston they could make it on a lower tire pressure, but if they are going out on the interstate even if it is just to Effingham or Champaign then their tires will not make it.

But Myerscough said there is wear that happens on the inside of the tire as well and recommends that in general everyone should get their car checked by a mechanic at least two or three times a year to check and prevent any tire problems.

Johnson also said that basically colder temperatures equal less pressure which equals less gas mileage.

He said students do not have to bring their car into the mechanic to check their tires and fill them, but if they choose to add air themselves they need to have a gage.

The amount of air pressure that tires should have varies from car to car.

Johnson said there is a sticker on the driver’s side door that tells you how much air pressure is needed for a certain car.

Once you know how much air pressure is needed, then buy a gage and use that as a guide to filling up your tires.

Also, he said to be aware of how much tread life is on each of your tires.

He recommends using the penny trick, where you take a penny, hold it upside down (Abe Lincoln’s head is facing the ground) and if you can see head, then your tires needed to be replaced yesterday.

When the tire tread is worn out you could slide into a curb and do hundreds of dollars in damage to the suspension system, Johnson said.

Check the windshield

Myerscough said that people should give themselves extra time in the morning to get their car ready.

He said they should clean their entire car in addition to the windows and windshield to avoid snow and ice from sliding off the car and back onto the windshield or in someone else’s line of sight on the road.

He said when there is ice on the windshield the easiest thing to do is turn on the windshield wipers, but he warns against doing that because it will break the wipers.

Check your fluids, yes that means oil too

Myerscough and Johnson said that students should go to places where they can get more than just an oil change, but rather a full service.

That means the mechanic will check the cars fluids, such as anti-freeze, the oil, filter, tire tread and tire pressure, tire bearings, front end valves, brakes and the battery for example.

Myerscough also said that even it is needed, road salt is the number one thing that eats up a car. That is why he said it is important to get a car checked out at least three times a year.

Doors freezing?

As for doors freezing or car not starting, Johnson said the best advice he can give is to walk away from it.

He said to not pour hot water down the door or try getting into the car because he said it could make the situation worse.

“Be patient,” he said. “You can’t control the elements.”

He said at that point, if someone’s door is frozen shut, then just take the Panther Shuttle to campus and wait for the car to thaw.

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].