It's like clockwork, Mike Grammer says.
About the time winter's first frigid temperatures hit, automotive shops fill up faster than they can make appointments.
"The first time we see zero, they'll be towing cars in here as fast as the tow trucks can run," says Grammer, owner of Don's Auto Center, 920 E. 11th St. "I've seen them on two or three days' backup."
Being stuck without a vehicle can pose big problems for people who drive to work especially the thousands of Lawrence commuters with jobs in Topeka and the Kansas City area.
But most trips to the "car doctor" could be prevented, Grammer says, if people prepared their vehicles in autumn for the extreme weather ahead.
"There's always a lot of people who don't get their preventive maintenance done, and so shops get extremely busy. That causes a lot of trouble for individuals," he said. "If you get it done in advance, you get it done at your convenience, and you don't have that down time."
Here's a list of systems and parts you or your mechanic should check to keep your vehicle running all winter long:
l Cooling system. Your antifreeze mixture should be set to protect to about 35 degrees below zero, Grammer said.
l Belts and hoses. "When it gets really cold, if you have belts that are getting hard and brittle, they're more prone to failing," Grammer said.
Battery. Making sure it's fully charged can save headaches on cold mornings.
"It's much harder for the engine to turn over when it's zero than when it's 70 degrees out," Grammer said.
l Fluids. Top off washer fluid, radiator fluid, transmission fluid, brake fluid, differential fluid and power-steering fluid.
l Oil. Check your vehicle manufacturer's recommendations to see if a different weight oil is required for winter.
l Wiper blades. Replace them if they're worn down.
l Tire pressure and tread. Use a depth gauge to make sure your tire tread is deep enough to handle slushy winter streets.