Fall vehicle checks can save costly repairs laterWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Fall is the perfect time to get your vehicle checked to make sure it’s in working order for winter, say area mechanics.
An inspection now can often save costly repairs later, said Bob Amonette, owner of Bob’s Tire & Auto in Toledo.
“Preventative maintenance is always cheaper than breakdowns,” Amonette said. “It’s like going to the dentist and getting your teeth cleaned. They start seeing the little cavities showing up and it’s cheaper to get the cavity fixed than to get a root canal.”
A typical pre-winter vehicle inspection will include a check of the vehicle’s starting and charging systems, anti-coolant protection, belts and hoses, steering linkage, suspension, battery, brakes, tires and more. Bob’s Tire & Auto offers a fall vehicle inspection for $39.99, which includes an oil change.
“It’s for peace of mind,” Amonette said. “All those things are actually good to check anytime, but especially in the winter before the weather gets bad. If you’re like most people, who have an older car with higher mileage, it could save you a breakdown or money if you get it checked before it breaks.”
Belts and hoses are especially important to check going into winter, said ASE certified mechanic Matt Amonette of Bob’s Tire & Auto.
“Those are really the stuff that’s going to leave you stranded,” Matt said.
One of the most overlooked areas is air pressure in tires, which changes with fluctuating temperatures, Amonette said.
“It’s smart to keep an eye on your air pressure because for every 10-degree temperature change, you lose a pound of air,” Amonette said. “If the temperature went down 10 degrees, chances are you lost 10 pounds. And if the temperature goes up, you don’t always regain the full 10 pounds.”
Maintaining proper air pressure also helps tires last longer, Amonette said.
It’s also important to make sure your tires have enough tread to get through snow, said Bob Kazmierczak, enterprise development manager at AAA Northwest Ohio.
“If you don’t have good tread, the tires will spin more often than not,” Kazmierczak said. “If the wear bar on the tire reads 2/32, the tire is legally bald. If you’re not sure where to find those, take a penny and put Lincoln’s head upside down into the tread. If you’re able to see the top of Lincoln’s head, the tire needs replaced.”
Check both sides of the tire to make sure it is wearing evenly. If tires are bald on one side and still good on the other, the vehicle could have an alignment issue, Amonette said.
Wipers are also important to check going into winter, Kazmierczak said.
“They tend to be neglected quite a bit,” Kazmierczak said. “Don’t use them as an ice scraper. They don’t hold up well to that.”
Lights are another often overlooked maintenance check, Kazmierczak said
“As it starts getting darker earlier, you’ll see a lot of cars on the road that have lights out,” Kazmierczak said. “It’s definitely a good thing to have the lights checked and replaced.”
A vehicle inspection can keep travelers from being stranded during a winter storm or during holiday travel, he said.
“There’s nothing worse than having a car problem on a holiday where people are traveling and a lot of auto shops aren’t open,” Kazmierczak said.It’s not usually a good idea to put off repairs, Amonette said.
“If your tie rod’s got a little bit of play in it and it’s going to go bad, it would be smart to fix it before it, No. 1, falls off or ruins your tire and now you’re buying a tie rod and a tire,” Amonette said. “If your battery is going bad and you don’t fix it and you just keep jumpstarting your car, next thing you know you’ve got a chance of ruining your alternator and your starter because you’re running it with low voltage and you’re jumping the car all the time. If you have a slight antifreeze leak from a belt or a hose or radiator and you just keep adding antifreeze, and the car starts running hot, you got a chance of possibly your water pump going out or overheating it, or the worst case scenario is ruining the motor. So that’s where preventative maintenance is a little smarter.”
Worse, sometimes what could have been an easy repair ends up causing an accident, Amonette said.
“It doesn’t always happen, but the worst part is people get in an accident over bad tires or something and say, ‘If I would have bought the new tires for 400-some bucks, I would have had new tires and probably not gotten in an accident. Instead I’ve got to pay a $500 deductible and I still need tires,’” Amonette said.
To be prepared, drivers need more than an ice scraper. They should also keep a blanket, extra warm clothes, a cell phone and nonperishable food items such as granola bars in their cars, Kazmierczak said. AAA offers winter car kits containing a candle, emergency flashers and more.
“Sometimes road service can take several hours on a really bad winter day, so you want to be prepared for that,” Kazmierczak said.