Winterizing your family’s car is crucial – ideally before the Michigan weather gets gnarly.
“The thing is here, you never know when it’s going to hit,” says Clint Shelton, mechanic and owner of Clint’s Auto Repair Downriver in Lincoln Park, which he opened with his wife in September 2016. “Especially with our climate changes, (it) puts the strain on a car.”
Read on for a few tips from southeast Michigan auto pros to keep you and your kids safe on the road this winter.
Check your tires
“Tire condition is really important,” Shelton says. Adds Tim Aeck Jr., who co-owns Tim’s Complete Auto Maintenance in Shelby Township, open since 1986.
“Your tire pressure is going to drop a pound per 10 degrees.” That means less traction – and less control – when you hit the slippery spots.
Aeck Jr. recommends checking tire pressure any time there’s a big temp change. To fill your tires to the right “pounds per square inch,” or PSI, look at the label inside your door and not the max PSI on the wall of your tires.
Check your spare, too, adds Shelton; it loses pressure over time.
Also, spec out tires’ tread depth. Do this with a tire tread depth gauge from an auto parts store. Or, Aeck Jr. says, place a penny upside-down in several areas of tread. If you see all of Lincoln’s head, your treads are less than 2/32-inch deep – considered “bald” – and it’s time to replace them.
How’s your battery?
A good battery for winter is a must. Aeck Jr. says cold weather “exposes all the weak batteries.” The chill “knocks it down about 20 percent.”
So if your battery is 20 percent weaker at the start of the season, the temp drop brings it down 20 percent more, leaving you with 60 percent power.
“Now you’re starting to notice slow cranks (and) dead batteries.” Have your level tested at your next oil change or inspection – or stock jumper cables.
Fluids, wiper blades, lights
Ensure you’re able to see, and be seen, in the dark and snow flurries. “Make sure you’ve got good wiper blades,” says Aeck Jr.
Check that headlights, tail lights and blinkers all work. See that wiper blades are in good condition and you’ve got plenty of washer fluid. “(In) nasty weather, you tend to use the heck out of it,” Aeck Jr. says.
Shelton adds to top off all of your fluids and keep coolant at the proper freeze point (check this with a tester, available for a few dollars at auto stores).
Ask the pros
Keep these items in your trunk, Tim’s Complete Auto Maintenance notes:
- Blanket and candles. “You can get some heat” if you break down, Aeck Jr. says.
- Small snow shovel. In case you’ve got to dig your car out.
- Salt, sand or rubber floor mats. They provide traction to free your car from ice or snow.
Learn the basics
Clint’s Auto Repair Downriver offers free classes on general auto maintenance for teen drivers, women and anyone seeking a solid 101. They run 4:30-6 p.m. Sundays in January and are limited to 10/class. Register at clintsautorepair.com.