Mechanic explains winter maintenance

Workers provide special measures to keep cars working in cold.

Cenex mechanic Jay Heimark fixes a rim at Gateway Cenex. Photo by Ethan Arlien/The Dakota Student.

When winter cold comes, so do car troubles. Head mechanic Mike Grossbauer at Cenex on Gateway Drive, who specializes in auto repair and towing, cautions drivers to take special measures with their cars this winter.

Grossbauer said drivers should pay special attention to motor oil, antifreeze-coolant and fuel levels to keep cars running smoothly through the winter.

If a car does not start, drivers should not keep trying to start it because it can cause major damage to the car’s engine.

“I’ve seen cars burst into flames when their engines become flooded,” Grossbauer said.

Another important measure is keeping vehicles warm with a block heater. All cars should have a block heater — a device used for heating the engine of the vehicle — and it should be used when the temperature drops below zero degrees, which is common in Grand Forks.

Another thing to keep in mind, before it gets too cold, is motor oil viscosity — the weight of the oil. Motor oil comes in several viscosities, but in cold weather it is important to have your motor oil at a minimum of 5W-30 because the thinness of this oil helps cars start in the cold weather.

“A lot of car manufacturers are now actually asking for a minimum of a 5W-20 viscosity,” Grossbauer said.

Aside from making sure oil viscosity is correct, maintaining tire pressure also is important. For every 10-degree drop in temperature, tire pressure drops one pound per square inch. Tire pressure should be kept between 35-40 pounds per square inch in normal conditions, and slightly lower in winter conditions.

Antifreeze and coolant protection is another to keep in mind this winter. Antifreeze and coolant is a fluid used in the radiator of motor vehicles to lower the freezing point.

Grossbauer said that having plenty of fuel in a vehicle helps it start and run better. The gasoline level should stay above half of a tank in cold weather.

“Having fuel in your car is also very important in case you were to break down on the side of the road,” Grossbauer said.

For drivers that don’t use their cars everyday, Grossbauer stresses that the engine should be turned on every other day and run for 10-15 minutes to warm up and keep the battery charged.

“A lot of car batteries die in the cold weather if the car sits for days on end,” Grossbauer said.

Lastly, Grossbauer suggests drivers should have a cold weather survival kit handy to be prepared for breakdowns. Water, blankets, cold weather gear and food are good things to keep in the kit.

Adele Kieger is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].