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Bad weather threat boosts consumer attention to cars

Dropping temperatures mean it’s time to winterize your car, and you won’t have to drop a lot of money into it if you spend the time doing checks now.

All 14 bays at the Grismer Tire on Columbia Avenue in Springfield were full Monday morning, and they had plenty of customers waiting in the lobby. When the forecast calls for snow “everybody finally realizes that they have to do something about their tires,” said Pat Fiorita, store assistant manager.

“The biggest thing is going to be air pressure in the tires and also the tread depth,” he said.

Most shops will do a visual inspection on tires, including tread depth, for free. Tire treads can also be checked at home using a penny or quarter. If you can see Lincoln’s hair on the penny or the top of Washington’s head on the quarter when you put the coins head-first between your tire treads, the depth is too low. This can cause your car to skid on snow and ice, Fiorita said.

That’s the situation Karen Orr was facing with her tires. She spent $700 to get them replaced, but she said that was much cheaper than causing an accident.

“With the economy the way it is, it saves everybody money to be ready for the winter,” she said. “It’s definitely peace of mind knowing you can get back home and to work safely.”

Coolant and battery checks are another item most mechanics will check for free. A battery won’t hold a charge properly in colder temperatures if it is more than five years old. A new one costs about $100, depending on the vehicle model. Float checks ensure coolant won’t freeze when the temperature drops, causing your engine to overheat. A $100 flush can replace old coolant— a much cheaper price tag, Fiorita said, than if your engine overheats.

“There’s expansion there and what can happen is it can actually crack a block or a head (gasket) and you can be anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 to replace that,” he said.

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