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Mechanics gear up for the winter months

Erich Bender of Taney Service Center in Taneytown demonstrates a litmus test used to analyze the freezing point, boiling point and pH value of a car's coolant.
Erich Bender of Taney Service Center in Taneytown demonstrates a litmus test used to analyze the freezing point, boiling point and pH value of a car's coolant. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

TANEYTOWN - At the Taney Service Center Jerry Fair began working on replacing a spring perch in a Ford truck.

During the wintertime, with road salts and other corrosive materials on the ground, it can cause rusting underneath the car, said Erich Bender, the co-owner of Taney Service Center.

Every winter droves of car-owners take their vehicles to have them winterized, he said. Bender has a winter checklist they look at when they inspect the car. Included in it is the battery system, tires, brakes, wipers, heating and air conditioning, the fluids and the coolant, he said.

Without the proper maintenance for the winter, vehicles can end up in worse repair than they did in the fall months. Lower temperatures can cause strain on everything from the car battery to the windshield wipers, Bender said.

"A little bit of preventative maintenance goes a long way," Bender said.

Bender's checklist matches up with AAA Mid-Atlantic's as well. Ben Perricone, the approved auto repair territory manager for the mid-Atlantic, said the most essential inspection is on the battery.

"That's the number one top priority of winterizing your vehicle. Everything starts, no pun intended, with your battery," Perricone said.

In the wintertime, people put an extra stress on their battery with lights, radios, windows and oftentimes a plugged-in cellphone charger.

"At 0 degrees a car's battery will lose about 60 percent of its strength," Perricone said. "Even at a mild 32 degrees it's not unusual to see a battery test out at a 35 percent drop."

With impending snow, tires with a good tread are imperative for driving through less than perfect conditions, Perricone said. Bender said while all-season tires are good for all times, winter tires have begun to make a come back.

The tread is slightly softer with winter tires, Bender said, which makes it easier to drive in the snow.

A good rule of thumb is that one pound of pressure is lost for every 10-degree drop in temperature, so checking the tire pressure regularly is important, Perricone said.

Low tire pressure can cause pain at the pump, as can the winter weather, Bender said. From October through March, he said he gets a lot of complaints about vehicles not getting as many miles per gallon. Oxygen is added to the gasoline for the wintertime to help it burn cleaner, Bender said, which can cause less gas mileage.

By going to a reputable shop, the maintenance needed to winterize a vehicle can cause less worries, Bender said. When his customers begin stopping in during fall months, he will look to make sure it is ready for winter.

"We just gear it a little bit differently," Bender said.

Perricone also recommends having a solid emergency kit for situations which includes a flash light, ice scraper, rags or a roll of paper towels, jumper cables and some screw drivers. Other good items to have in an emergency kit are a few bottles of drinking water, warm clothes, snacks and an extra phone charger, he said.

"Maryland really tends to release her winter weather on us in January, February and March. We haven't seen the full brunt up to this point," Perricone said.

With mild temperatures this week, now is a good time to make sure the car is adequately prepared to handle the winter months, Perricone said.

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