Cold weather heats up car repair shops

Published 7:46 am Friday, February 11, 2011

Business is booming for local auto repair shops, thanks to frigid weather and the economy.

As temperatures drop below zero, breakdowns are more likely to occur.

“The cold has been driving business,” said Peter Bartley, owner of Midwest Auto Clinic. “There comes a point where if there’s a component or part, a device that’s potentially already weak, this extreme cold is going to push it to that breaking point.”

Repair shops around town have reported skyrocketing business. While that’s good for local car mechanics, some places are having a hard time keeping up with the demand.

There are several common problems car owners are experiencing now, from dead batteries to stuck starters and heaters on the fritz.

“Some are just not putting out enough heat,” said Rick Schewe, owner of Rick’s Auto. He said the majority of his recent business has come from bum heaters.

Business is usually supposed to be slow in February, according to repair shop owners. The auto repair industry hasn’t done as well in the past three or four years, mainly because of the economy.

“Right now, people are forced to fix what they have,” Schewe said. “They don’t have a choice.”

There are preventative measures people can take to protect their cars from the cold, although not much can be done for those who’ve waited to get their car looked at. Car owners should take their car in for recommended check ups and make sure general maintenance, like changing the oil, putting in antifreeze and letting cars heat up for several minutes prior to going anywhere, is taken care of.

“A lot of the breakdown scenarios are really preventable,” Bartley said.

Most of all, car owners need to protect their batteries.

“The main thing is to have your battery tested,” said Rick Karge, owner of Westside Auto Repair. “Make sure you’ve got a good, powerful battery.”

While temps will ease up over the weekend and into next week, Mower County isn’t out of the winter woods yet.

“A lot of it is just good old common sense,” Bartley said. “We’re hearty Minnesotans. I think we’ve got a jump on how to make life function in these cold temperatures.”