Winterizing Your Vehicle Keeps Trips Safe

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"Arizona is hard on engines and hard on transmissions because of the temperature extremes," said Steve Ellis, a mechanic with 25 years of experience, and owner of Steve's AC Delco Pro Lube in Payson.

Ellis recommended the following to anyone who wishes to keep their vehicle's performance strong:

Anti-freeze/coolant

"The most important thing in the wintertime is making sure the coolant is able to withstand these cold temperatures; and make sure it is in good condition," Ellis said.

He uses a test strip to check the ph level, which is indicative of corrosion in the cooling system and the temperature level at which the anti-freeze is effective.

Changing the oil

Manufacturers recommend that oil be changed at 7,500 miles. Ellis recommends changing it between 3,000 and 4,000 miles. The 7,500-mile recommendation is under ideal conditions, said Ellis. Arizona does not have ideal conditions; this state has extremes of hot and cold.

Lubricate the chassis

Lubricate the tie rods, the ball joints and the steering linkage, if applicable.

Battery

Arizona is hard on batteries in summer and winter. A cold start puts heavy stress on batteries.

Because it is warmer than outside, parking your vehicle in your garage is better.

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For mechanic Jerry Foster, having room to stand under a vehicle to change the oil is much easier than crawling underneath it while it is jacked up. Safer too.

"There are a lot of (batteries) on the market that are maintenance-free, but there are still some after-market batteries that are serviceable, meaning you can add (distilled) water (or battery fluid) to them."

Wiper blades

It is better to be ready for the rain and snow than to be outside an auto parts store changing them in the rain and snow.

Hoses

"Hoses wear from the inside out, not from the outside in," said Ellis. "The squeeze test is the antique way of checking them. It's not very efficient because you can't see what is going on inside." The factory recommends you change your hoses every four to five years.

Transmission fluid

"Check (the transmission fluid) while the car is running," said Pro Lube mechanic Jerry Foster.

The owner's manual will tell you whether the vehicle needs to be in park or neutral. A mark on the dipstick will indicate warm or cold. "Cold" would be if you have just started the car and "warm" would be if you had already been driving a while.

According to Foster, if it starts to look brown or burnt, rather than red, that's an indication that it is starting to get a lot of wear.

As the fluid gets older and thicker, it will make the transmission react a little bit slower, Ellis said.

Transmission fluid should be changed about every 50,000 miles.

Belts

"Belts you can visually inspect for cracks, signs of wear, and how dry they are. If they are making a squealing noise, or especially in the wintertime, people complain more about them making a squealing noise or a ‘wsh wsh wsh wsh wsh' noise. It means that the rubber material is getting really dry as it rubs against the cold pulleys until they warm up."

Air filter

"A clean air filter will help keep all the dirt particles out of your engine, and help improve the gas mileage because it can breathe better," said Foster.

Idling

Leaving your car idling while you go into a convenience store is safe from an engine standpoint according to Foster, however, he said, "I think you should turn (your car) off as a safety factor, because you never know if your transmission is going to kick in. If children are in the vehicle, you should always turn the engine off and take the key so there is no danger of them accidentally moving the vehicle," he said.

Tires

Rotation on a regular basis and correct pressure are important to good gas mileage and improved handling on the road.

Ellis recommends a digital gauge rather than relying on what may be attached to the air hose at gas stations

"You get the most mileage out of them the more you rotate them, so the tires don't always drive in the same groove."

Chains

Ellis said, when applied properly, he has never seen modern snow chains hurt the tire, but if they come apart, they can damage the wheel well.

"Modern chains, installed properly and used properly at the correct miles per hour, you'll never have a problem," said mechanic Jerry Foster.

"They make it so easy now. If (a person) follows the directions that are inside the package, they should have no problem installing chains themselves."

"You just lay them out, roll on them, hook them up and you're pretty much done," added Ellis.

Ellis is Master ASE-certified, with an L-1 advanced specialty. He said he attends continuing education classes regularly, although it is not a requirement of the government. He views it as a professional requirement.

Steve's Pro Lube is located at 108 W. Wade behind the Time Out Thrift Store.

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