Is your car ready for the winter driving season? Ready to take on what the Maine winter will no doubt dish out, from snow and sleet, freezing rain and ice to those subzero days and nights with the wind just a cranking.
Yep, those winter days.
Getting back and forth to work is one thing, when a breakdown is a mere inconvenience. What’s a little less time at the office behind the desk after all, right?
But I’m talking about those all-important hours on the road, the back and forth driving to the mountains and the ski areas, when you’ve just got to get there no matter what!
To be sure that you can get you and your friends and family reliably and safely to the slopes, your best bet is to take your car, truck or SUV to your local shop for a good check-up.
I’ve been taking my vehicles to Hamilton’s Service on Park Avenue in Portland since 1987. That’s a long time going to one place, but there are some good reasons for that. These guys are not only excellent mechanics and honest as the day is along, they’re a lot of fun too, which all goes a long way when the subject is not-so-exciting auto repair.
I caught up recently with John DeLuca, the general manager at Hamilton’s Service Center, for a run-down of things you need to take care of with your vehicle to be sure it’s in top shape for the rough winter weather and roads.
“I ski, so I know how important it is to have confidence in your car in wintertime,” said DeLuca.
At the top of the John’s list are tires. You’ve got to have good tread on them and make sure the tire pressure is correct all round.
Check all the fluids, especially the coolant, have the battery tested, and get an oil change.
“It’s good to take it to a local garage to have the oil changed,” said DeLuca. “Then you can have the other stuff checked out, like then suspension and the brakes and whatnot.”
The cheapie quick oil change places aren’t equipped to go that important extra step for safety, so avoid them if you can.
“They’re really just ‘spill and fill’ places and nothing more,” cautioned DeLuca. “Cold weather make things break easily,” so you need that added inspection.
A garage check-up and any needed repairs are one aspect of winter safety on the road. Another is carrying the right emergency gear in your car.
“I like to be prepared,” DeLuca conceded. And clearly so, as he even carries MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and Power Bars, just in case. “The Power Bars at least I can eat on the mountain.”
DeLuca also recommends a warm blanket, shovel, sand, water and a flashlight.
Even better, he says, is to purchase a AAA Emergency Kit, which has all of the above plus a first aid kit and much more. They run anywhere up to about $69 but are entirely worth the cost should you ever need it.
Another handy item is a jumper pack, which allows you to jump your battery without needing another vehicle. They run about $75. More cheap insurance I say.
Finally, make sure your cell phone is fully charged. Even though coverage in the mountains can be spotty.
Good deal John, thanks for all the great advice. Hope to see you on the slopes and not broken down up on Route 4 somewhere!
Somehow that reminds me of a good bit of Maine humor, thanks to my friend and outdoors writer colleague John Christie, aka one of Maine’s best yarn spinners, who has had me pretty much peeing my ski pants at several recent occasions when I’ve sat to listen.
“Now, you‘ve got to know something about Maine people,” Christie told me. “It‘s not that we‘re not friendly. We‘re just not that interested in people from away. Mainers really only want to know two things about you, especially in wintah… Do you have jumper cables? And will you stop?”