Winterize your drive with a tune-up at a local shop

3 October 2012

ST. JOHN VALLEY- Peak season for fall foliage is here in the St. John Valley. Fall foliage season in northern Maine means many things to different people, but for winter drivers looking to prep for the upcoming road conditions, everyone is eligible to have their summer tires switched out for their studded winter tires on October 1. A few local automobile-service-related businesses offered advice for the winter-savvy driver.

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Tim Ouellette, Service Manager for Valley Auto in Fort Kent, said they have a checklist for their customers for this time of year that includes a variety of items, including the condition of a car's battery, tires, fluids, the hot plug, if present, and belts and hoses.

“You lose one-half of the cranking amps [from the battery] when it's below zero,” he said.

About tires, he said, very simply, “You need some good traction.”

Valley Auto fills their customers' cars with windshield washer fluid that is rated for 40 degree below zero, and checks wiper blades. In some cases, they may recommend winter blades.

About the belts and hoses, he said, “We make sure you won't lose a belt or a hose and get stuck alongside the highway somewhere.”

Main Street Auto Repair’s Scott Levesque in Madawaska encouraged drivers to have their batteries, spark plugs, and fuel filters checked as well. In addition, he said some shops offer waxing and specialized undercoats that can help protect the body of the car from rust caused by sand and salt.

“Anything to help stop the rust, because they rust so fast,” he said.

Service Manager Glenn Ouellette of Pelletier Ford in Fort Kent focused on having fluids checked, including levels and sometimes the types, of coolant, transmission fluid and antifreeze.

Ouellette said Ford offers a 30-point checklist that includes battery testing and is color-coded for repair urgency.

Customers are welcome to ask Ford’s mechanics to check their battery at any time, but he recognizes the importance of making sure the customer is informed about what performance they can expect from their car or truck battery in the winter. As a result, the garage will perform battery testing as a courtesy for their customers. They also ensure that a driver’s coolant is set for 40 or 50 degrees below 0.

“In this area, we always recommend it be set for those temperatures,” he said.

Brakes, suspension parts, lights, and tires are also included in their pre-winter check.

“Customers are starting to ask about pricing on snow tires,” said Ouellette. Currently, the company is running a special on tires. If a customer purchases four tires, the company offers a $60 rebate. Ford offers 11 different brands of tires to their customers, and Ouellette said although the company is a Ford dealership, the garage will service other makes and models as well.