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KENAI - In winter, it can be tough to motivate in the morning. Nighttime lows well below zero make moving and starting the day difficult, and the same it true for vehicles once the mercury plummets.
Cold start: Deep freeze takes a toll on vehicles, too 011409 NEWS 2 Morris News Service - Alaska KENAI - In winter, it can be tough to motivate in the morning. Nighttime lows well below zero make moving and starting the day difficult, and the same it true for vehicles once the mercury plummets.

Katie Spielberger Photo

IA vehicle covered in snow in Juneau last weekend. It's not too late to winterize your vehicle in preparation for the next cold snap.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Story last updated at 1/14/2009 - 10:56 am

Cold start: Deep freeze takes a toll on vehicles, too

KENAI - In winter, it can be tough to motivate in the morning. Nighttime lows well below zero make moving and starting the day difficult, and the same it true for vehicles once the mercury plummets.

"It's better to be prepared for winter beforehand, rather than waiting and reacting to the weather once it gets cold," said Danny Autrey, assistant manager at Alyeska Sales and Service in Kenai.

However, not all motorists made plans to winterize their vehicles back in late fall, and as a result Autrey said business at his shop began booming as soon as this sub-zero cold front moved in.

"It got cold for two or three days in a row and we booked up, and we've been booked up - (to) more than a week out - ever since," he said.

Autrey said a bulk of the business has been people coming in to have their heaters - on the engine block, oil pan and battery - inspected, or motorists without them looking to have heaters installed.

"Some are better than others, but in general, block heaters do a good job," he said.

Autrey added that in addition to plugging in these heaters, people with garages should also still pull their cars in for the night during subzero temperatures.

"It's always better to have them in a warm ambient temperature when you can," he said.

In addition to the heaters, Autrey said the automotive shop has also been replacing a lot of vehicle batteries, and performing diagnostic tests to determine how long existing batteries, alternators and starters will last.

"As the temperature drops, so does the cranking power of a car battery," he said.

In fact, according to AAA, at 32 degrees, a battery has 15 percent less starting power than it does in summer; at 0 degrees it has 35 percent less power; and at minus 20 degrees it has less than half the cranking power, while at the same time the engine needs 3 ½ times the power to start.

"We've also been doing a lot of flushing out (of) coolant systems, including the heating core," Autrey said.

Some people think just putting in antifreeze once is enough to keep their vehicle running smoothly, but Autrey said as with nearly all automotive fluids, coolant should be flushed frequently to prevent corrosion because it contains chemicals that over time can "gunk up the system."

Oil is another fluid to stay on top of in winter, according to Autrey.

"Keeping the right grade for the season is important, and in winter 5W-30 is what we use in bulk, but there are a few owner's manuals that recommend 5W-20," he said.

Autrey said synthetic oil is also superior to non-synthetic.

"It keeps its viscosity better when it's cold," he said.

Autrey also advises that motorist keep up with checking the air pressure in their tires.

"They loose pressure when it's cold, so people should be aware, and possibly increase their pressure just by two to three p.s.i. before it gets cold," he said.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.


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