Auto service centers see weather-related upswing in business

2014-02-15T23:00:00Z 2014-02-17T13:40:08Z Auto service centers see weather-related upswing in businessDiane Poulton Times Correspondent
February 15, 2014 11:00 pm  • 

Local automotive repair service centers report an increase in business due to pothole ravaged roads and frigid weather-related issues.

“We have definitely seen a pickup in battery replacement and suspension, tire and wheel damage from the potholes,” said Todd McGarr, manager at Pro Auto in Crown Point.

McGarr said heat issues are a huge problem in the frigid weather.

“If people don’t have heat they are not wasting any time getting in here for plugged heater cores or things like that,” McGarr said. “People definitely can’t do without heat in this kind of weather.”

McGarr said pot holes are causing damage to suspension systems and Pro Auto has been replacing quite a few tires and bent and broken wheels.

Jim Thoma, manager at Firestone Complete Auto Care in Merrillville, said the tire and auto service center has been busy.

“Potholes have led to damaged tires, bent wheels and vehicle misalignment and the consistent below-zero temperatures are causing batteries to fail,” Thoma said.

Thoma estimates that business has increased anywhere from 5 to 20 percent.

Both McGarr and Thoma said the increased business has not resulted in long waits for customers needing service.

“I have scheduled it correctly enough that I am still OK on workload,” McGarr said.

Thoma said Firestone always does its best to take care of customers in a timely manner but highly recommends calling ahead for an appointment.

Both McGarr and Thoma have suggestions to help motorists during winter weather conditions. Thoma recommends replacing all-season tires with winter tires.

“Cold temperatures cause your all-season tires to stiffen and lose traction but the latest generations of winter tires remain flexible in freezing temperatures, improving traction and available grip,” Thoma said.

Thoma advises motorists flip up their windshield wipers while vehicles are parked outdoors. This prevents them from icing over and breaking in half when they are turned on, Thoma said.

Thoma suggests having an emergency kit in the car with a blanket, flashlight, matches, bottles of water, light sticks and kitty litter or sand.

Both Thoma and McGarr recommend checking tread depth and pressure as tires lose one pound for every 10-degree change in temperature. They said all fluid levels should be checked, starting with antifreeze, and batteries should be tested for cold cranking amps and for any corrosion on the terminals.

“Definitely come in and get antifreeze and do what we call a winterizing which is fairly inexpensive,” McGarr said. “What we do is check the antifreeze levels to see how good it is until it freezes. You don’t want to break down this time of the year on the side of the road. The elements are pretty rough.”

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