Safety while steering in the snowy season

Local experts share their tips and tricks

Rader’s Auto Service owner Dean Rader works on the engine of a car. When the heavy snow comes, Rader recommends checking under your hood for built-up snow.

NEW ULM — As the weather gets colder, people rely on their cars now more than ever.

At the same time, the conditions bring extra strain and make driving more dangerous. Local experts are sharing their knowledge on what to look out for and how to be prepared.

South Central Auto Service owner Brad Scheibel has been working on cars since 1988. He said the most important thing to check on right now is the battery, as colder weather makes old batteries show their age.

“On a lot of these batteries the cranking amps are good for warm weather,” Scheibel said. “As soon as it gets cold they don’t have enough power to start vehicles a lot of times.”

Something people can do themselves is make sure their cars’ fluids are topped off. This includes antifreeze, oil, and coolant. Gas should also always be more than half-full, so in the event of an incident, the car can run longer while waiting for help. Keeping the car warm is the issue Scheibel said is most common in his shop.

One thing everyone is looking to avoid this winter is a wreck, like this Chevy Silverado on a Rader’s Auto Shop Tow Truck. To keep yourself safe on the roads, Rader’s Auto Shop owner Dean Vader recommends people have a safety kit and get their tires checked.

“The heaters on cars will start to plug up,” he said. “The thermostats go bad so they won’t get up to the right operating temperature. When it gets real cold, people complain their car isn’t heating as good as it should.”

Scheibel also recommends filling your tires with air when it is relatively warm. When the temperatures are freezing cold, the air supply lines at gas stations can freeze up and are less reliable. he said newer cars with aluminum rims are especially susceptible to air leaks as they leak around the bead.

Under ice storms or snow conditions, Scheibel said a whole new problem can arise. Snow can accumulate underneath the car and bunch up. In the wrong areas, it can make your day a whole lot worse.

“You get a lot of snow balled up in your wheels,” he said. “Sometimes you’ll get a chunk of ice in the wheel and it’ll throw off your tire balance and you’ll get a shake. Especially If your car’s wheels are all full of snow and you go through the carwash. A lot of times they won’t get all the snow out of the rims. Then you’ll get one spot where it’ll give you an imbalance and shake pretty bad.”

Rader’s Auto Service owner Dean Rader has been working on cars since he was eight years old. Now 54, he has seen a lot in the repair business. To save yourself automotive headaches, Rader said the best thing to do is to keep up with the basic maintenance.

Like many during the winter, this car is in South Central Auto Repair being fixed. South Central Auto owner Brad Scheibel said heating issues are the most common reason cars come into his shop in the winter.

“Keep your oil changed,” he said. “Keep your tires pumped up. Especially in wintertime make sure because when it gets cold the pressure will drop. Check your engine oil, brake fluid, and transmission fluid. Your four-wheel drives have transfer case differentials and other items you have to maintain. Keep everything full and clean.”

In terms of winter-proofing your car, Rader said now is the time to take care of anything hanging off of the car or underneath it. If not, snow and ice will wreak havoc where they usually cannot reach.

“[Check for] anything hanging down below or loose underneath like plastic housing,” he said. “The snow and ice can get up into there and cause problems. It’s going to drop it down.”

For those unsure how to check or fix certain issues, cars are a lot like humans. Rader recommends bringing them in for a check-up so an expert can look it over and tell you what you need.

“A lot of times if you bring your car into a shop and have it looked at, shops will look it over,” he said. “They’ll tell you if your tires, belts, hoses, and antifreeze are good. A good look over before winter time is well worth it.”

Rader said depending on how the snow blows, large build-ups can occur underneath your hood. If you are not able to park your car inside or start it 5-10 minutes ahead of time to let the snow melt, Rader said there are do’s and don’ts to remove the snow.

“There’s a lot of places you don’t want to stick a broom or [an ice scraper],” he said. “[You can use] an air blower and blow the snow out of there. It’s better than trying to get in there with a stick that’s gonna jam into something.”

Even with all of the potential issues, Scheibel and Rader both said the winter season does not mean a spike in vehicles brought in. Both said newer vehicles have reduced the problems often bringing cars in. Scheibel cited better heating systems, while Rader credited wider adoption of all-wheel-drive and fuel injection systems.


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