Winter can wreak havoc on cars

Published 8:37 am Wednesday, February 3, 2010

FRANKLIN—Snow, ice and extreme cold can lead to big problems with vehicles, as some in Western Tidewater have learned the hard way since last weekend’s snowstorm.

“The biggest thing that stands out in my mind is these (windshield) wiper motors going and wipers breaking because people use them while they’re still frozen,” said Franklin Automotive owner Tim Parsons.

Tommy Weaver, the service manager at Mike Duman Auto Sales in Franklin, said problems caused by frozen windshield wipers have been common this week.

“It’s either breaking or mangling the wipers or breaking the transmission assembly in the wiper motor,” Parsons said. “When they’re cutting them on, it’s trying to break through that ice and it burns the motor up and it’ll cause damage to the wiper transmission.”

Weaver said repairs for a broken windshield wiper arm could run in the $100-range. Both Weaver and Parsons also said that it’s important that drivers use an adequate amount of windshield wiper fluid.

“It’s a cleaner, but it also keeps the water that mixes with it from freezing, and of course it goes in a plastic tank, so if you don’t have adequate protection and the water freezes it expands and cracks the tank,” Weaver said.

It’s important that drivers check other fluids as well. Adequate antifreeze is critical when temperatures drop. Tire pressure and tread are also very important when driving in icy conditions.

“Traction’s bad enough, but it’s worse if your tires are in poor condition,” Weaver said.

Parsons said that he is also getting a lot of customers with malfunctioning heaters caused by electrical problems.

After any type of freezing and thawing event, there is an increased risk of potholes on roads. Potholes are created when moisture seeps into the pavement, freezes, expands and then thaws weakening the pavement. Traffic loosens the pavement even more, and eventually it crumbles and pops out.

Hitting a pothole could lead to costly repairs.

“It can knock the alignment off and also damage the tires in some cases,” Parsons said. He also said that extreme cold or heat “will actually do a battery in.”

According to Parsons, the best advice for motorists in wintry weather is to “get up early.”

“Start the car, let it warm up and let as much of the ice and snow melt off as you can instead of taking a brush to it … because that will damage the paint,” he said. He also said people need to make sure that their vehicles are free of sheets of ice.

“It could fly off the car and hit another car and create an accident,” he said. Parsons also said that drivers should be sure to clear their windows of all ice and snow before driving to prevent dangerous visibility problems.