Preparing Your Vehicle For Winter

August 23rd, 2019

How to or how should I winterize my car?

winterWould you like to be trapped in twenty degree weather with a broken down vehicle?  Would you like to have to wait for a tow truck to come pull you to the garage?  Would you want to fix your vehicle while it is snowing outside?

These are all things that preventative maintenance and several checks can help reduce from occurring.

Preparing your vehicle outside

There are several things that an average person can do to help maintain their cars exterior for the winter.  A good idea of something to do before the first snow even occurs is to wash and wax your exterior of your car.  This helps clean the exterior and the wax helps create a barrier between the harmful road salt and other deicers which can damage your vehicles paint.  This barrier helps prevent rust from occurring.  Of course you are still going to need to wash your vehicle during the winter, but this is where car washes come in handy, especially the ones with the under wash.  This under wash helps wash the buildup of deicers, salt, and road dirt from the slushy winter roads out from underneath your vehicle, helping to prevent rusting of critical parts.

Preparing your vehicles tires

By taking care of your vehicles tires before the winter starts, helps prevent the need to fix a flat in the blowing snow.  A good idea also is to check your vehicles tire wear.  For the average person who would like to check their tire wear it is a fairly simple procedure; however, if you are not comfortable with checking your tire wear by yourself you can take your vehicle to a mechanic and have them check your tire wear and pressure all at the same time.

The procedure for checking tire wear

  1. Take a penny; your average Lincoln penny and place in your tires center tread upside down so Lincoln’s head is facing down.
  2. Next if your tread touches or passes Lincoln’s head then your tread should be good if your tire is wore even which I will discuss later.  If however the tread doesn’t touch Lincoln’s head then you likely need new tires and should consult a mechanic or a tire shop.
  3. How I stated before if your tires are wore even, then you should be set if you do the above test. If not however this is a quick way to check.  All you need to do if you’re comfortable with checking is look at your tires.  See if they are worn more in any spots, or if they are uneven looking.  The best bet is to move the car a little to check the whole tire.  You should also check for any cracks, nails, or other objects that can show either wear or a possible spot for failure.

Another simple task that you should do before winter with your tires is check to make sure your tires are properly inflated with air.

  1. To do this you first need to locate where your specific tire pressure is located.  This can be on the side of the door when opened in a vehicle, on the gas lid, or if you can’t find it then you can look inside your owner’s manual. Generally I just look at the “max PSI”<–(lbs. per square inch) labeled on the outside wall of your tires. Might have to get your cheaters on lick your fingers and rub the tire wall to be able to read. It could say something like (MAX PSI 40lbs.)
  2. Next if you feel confident in your skills all you will need is a tire pressure gauge from any auto parts store while you are there buying oil. They are very inexpensive such as a few of the ones listed here and you can just keep one in your glove box for each vehicle. If you don’t have an air compressor several of gas stations have them complimentary. Always keep your tires inflated to the MAX PSI for best vehicle mileage and handling. It will also insure even tread wear over the tire’s lifetime.
  3. To accomplish your air pressure test your vehicles tires must be cold which means that you have not driven your car recently.  All you do to check your tire pressure is use your numbers you found from your research on your car and take the air caps off of your tires.  Then you take your air pressure gauge and make sure to push it all the way on the valve stem for a second or two.  You should hear a sound of air rushing.
  4. Then you record the reading on your air pressure gauge.
  5. If your tires are low then you fill air as needed by putting the air nozzle from the compressor on the valve stem for a couple seconds at a time.  Make sure to check the air pressure every time you stop for filling.
  6. If your tires are over inflated then you will need to release some air by using your finger nail or something small to hold the valve open on the tire.  Do this for a couple seconds and then re check tire pressure until your pressure is the same as what it should be.

Note:  Don’t check tires by simply looking at them and seeing if they are low or full this way, it can be very misleading.  Always consult the specific number on the side of your door or in your owner’s manual. As cold weather sets in……..air condenses or becomes thinner thus reducing the lbs. per square inch inside your tires so I always wait until temps get below freezing and check the pressure again. If you live in North Dakota like me wear gloves and wait until the wind calms down a bit before doing this……….don’t wait until it’s -20 below and 40mph winds!

Now after accomplishing these simple procedures or taking your vehicle to a trained mechanic to have them done you may feel satisfied that you are protected in the tire area.  This is wrong!  A lot of people only check their tires on their car; however, you should also check your spare tire!  Do the same as you did before with the other tires, look up the pressure (it should be in the same place as mentioned above if not you can check the spare tire compartment and it should say), and then add air or remove air as demonstrated above.  Along with checking your spare you may also want to check to make sure that your vehicle has a jack and it is in the vehicle, and you may also want to check to make sure that the vehicle has a lug nut wrench that fits, and that it is in the car.  After doing all of these things you should be pretty much covered on the tire situation.

Checking your vehicle’s systems

Now that you have accomplished the basics such as your tires and exterior, we can move onto some other things that you should check before winter. Some of these are more advanced and may need to be taken to a mechanic.  We will discuss how to check your vehicles battery, your pH level in your coolant, your washer fluid, and your oil.

We will start out with the battery.  This is often overlooked until those cold mornings when you go to start your vehicle and nothing…no click or anything or your car barely turns over.  This can a lot of times be prevented by a couple fairly simple procedures.  Again if you question your ability at all on these seek a mechanic, especially when dealing with batteries.  Make sure to have baking soda handy too, since this neutralizes battery acid.  Always wash hands after dealing with batteries. Also note that anytime you are dealing with batteries wear safety glasses, the acid from them can burn your eyes. If a battery explodes the safety glasses will prevent the acids from entering your eyes and possibly blinding you.  I know that I said a battery can explode and yes it can if hooked up wrong the hydrogen released by a battery can cause it to explode from a spark from incorrectly installed battery wires, or other open flames.

The procedure

  1. First make sure that your car is shut off.
  2. I will start with the basics, and then go into more advanced checks. Second you can check your battery for any acid or corrosion on it.  Take a look at the battery terminals, the spot where the wires connect.  Make sure the terminals are tight and not corroded. A great tool for this procedure and also makes a perfect gift for any mechanic is the EzRed BMK1914 Battery Terminal Maintenance Kit.
  3. If the terminals are not tight and you feel like you can tighten them then go for it just make sure to use the proper size wrench.  Also make sure to not touch both terminals with the wrench or any other conductive material this can cause a short.
  4. If your terminals look corroded and you would like to clean them then this is the process.
  5. Start by removing the negative terminal on the battery this is usually the black wire, but to be sure check the battery and look for the “-” sign.  Remove this wire using the proper socket or wrench included in the EzRed BMK1914 Battery Terminal Kit.
  6. Next remove the positive terminal on the battery usually the red wire, but just check to be sure and look for the + sign on the battery.  Remove this wire using the proper socket or wrench.
  7. Next obtain a battery post cleaner included in the BMK1914 To use this you put the terminal in the open end and turn it, and then twist it and get the brush out and put it in the wire end and clean the clamps.
  8. Now you are done with this and you connect the positive wire first, then the negative.  Make sure you connect the wires to the proper terminals.
  9. Now that your posts are clean and reinstalled you can go ahead and check your battery.  To do this you will need to obtain a multimeter such as ATD-5519  Auto-Ranging Digital Multimeter this one from
  10. Next make sure the car is not running and take your meter out and select the DC Voltage since it is your battery.  If you doubt your ability on this you can take your vehicle to a shop and have them do the test.
  11. You hook the red wire on the meter to the positive post on the battery and the black wire on the meter to the negative post on the battery.  You should receive a reading between 12.5-12.8 DC Volts.  If you do not then check again and if not again your battery may need to be replaced.
  12. The next test that you can do with this same meter is to check your alternator output.  To do this you should first know what your alternator is.  It is driven by your accessory belt and helps charge the battery and provides the voltage for the systems on the car to run.  If your alternator isn’t charging your battery this could lead to a dead battery.
  13. To test your alternator output you will start your engine.  Again select DC Volts on your meter.
  14. Take the leads and connect them the same way as above.  This time you should receive a reading between 13.6-14.3 Volts.  If you don’t then your alternator may not be charging your battery and should be further tested.

These tests can all be performed by the average backyard mechanic and even the average person, but if you don’t feel equipped enough then take your vehicle to a trained mechanic.  These simple tests can help prevent you from being stranded with a dead battery.

Next we will talk about checking the pH of your coolant. This helps prevent the freezing of your coolant inside your radiator.  Note coolant is poisonous and should be kept away from children, and pets.  Never pour coolant down the drain without consulting your local lays regarding this.

The procedure

  1. First make sure that your car is not running and has been sitting for at least an hour to cool completely.  Warning removal of a hot radiator cap will cause boiling coolant to shoot everywhere.
  2. Next locate your radiator it is under the hood and in the front of your engine.  It should be rectangular and have little cooling fins and a fan near it.  Once you have located your radiator locate your overflow tank which should be clear and near the radiator.  Once you have located this check the cold line on the mark since your vehicle is cold and make sure the lines meet up.  If they don’t add a half half mix of coolant and water until they do.
  3. Next remove the cap, once the cap has been removed use a pH gauge such as Thexton 100 Propylene Glycol Anti-Freeze and Coolant Tester from to check the pH.  To accomplish this stick the hose in the radiator and squeeze the rubber ball at the end.
  4. This will fill the clear sight glass with coolant.  You will have to look at the number of balls floating in the tester and consult the chart with your tester.  This will tell you how cold your antifreeze is rated for. If you wish to be a bit more scientific use a Coolant and Battery Refractometer which will come with instructions.
  5. If it is rated for not cold enough add more antifreeze.  Not a 50:50 water/antifreeze mix, but pure antifreeze. It’s like not enough chocolate syrup in your malt………don’t mix the syrup with milk jut straight syrup. Get it? <—that’s the only analogy I could come up with…….I just made homemade ice cream yesterday.

Now that your coolant system is ready we can move onto your washer fluid.  This seems simple enough, but it is often overlooked.  If your washer fluid is not freeze resistant as soon as you reach below freezing it will freeze solid in your reservoir tank, expand and crack tank and fittings thus resulting in a dirty windshield and repairs.

The Procedure

  1. The basic procedure for this is before winter make sure to use up all of your washer fluid and replace with freeze resistant washer fluid.  I recommend using the fluid that is supposed to melt the ice.  If however you are stuck with the fluid in your tank there are two things you can do.
  2. One you can run your wipers with the fluid button held until you run out.
  3. Or you can use a siphon like the ATD 82350 and siphon the fluid out of the tank.
  4. The siphon is simple you put the hose in your washer fluid reservoir, and the other end in a container to store the fluid and pump the ball until fluid comes out, and then it will just run out.

The last step in preparing your vehicle for winter is changing your oil.  This is often not needed in the present days due to the multi weight oils, but if your oil is not multi weight oil, you will have to change to thinner winter weight oil.

The procedure

  1. First if your vehicles oil needs to be changed to winter weight wait until it is starting to get cold out.  You don’t want to be running thinner oil in your vehicle when it is still warm out.
  2. Start out by either jacking the front of your vehicle up or driving it onto car ramps.  If jacking make sure to use a proper location for the jack, and also to lower the vehicle onto properly placed jack stands so the vehicle doesn’t fall on top of you.  Also block the back wheels so that the vehicle will not roll off the stands or the car ramps.
  3. Once your vehicle is jacked up in the air.  At this point I would imagine that you have changed oil before or at least have the help of someone who has.  If not I would suggest watching someone change the oil or take your vehicle to a shop and have them do this for you.  Now we will get a list of the tools you will need.
    1. A creeper such as a  Mechanic’s Creeper from One that lays flat to the ground to maneuver under the vehicle
    2. A socket set metric or standard depending on your vehicle
    3. An oil filter wrench such as  Oil Filter Pliers/ Wrench. There are several types and sizes depending upon the style and or diameter of your filter
    4. The proper o ring for your drain plug
    5. The proper weight oil for your vehicle
    6. The proper oil filter (This and the oil should be able to be looked up on the internet or where you buy your filter and or oil.  Or you can likely find this in the manual).
    7. A drain pan such as one of these or a lift drain if you have a hoist.
    8. A funnel or a good Oil Dispenser like the LISLE 19732 (no funnel needed).
    9. Rags
    10. Now that your vehicle is in the air, get on your creeper, grab your sockets and drain pan and slide under the vehicle.  Once under the vehicle locate your oil pan and look for a bolt head sticking out.  This is your drain plug. Match the right socket to the bolt and put this socket on your ratchet and remove the bolt.  Be careful when you get to the end so that you do it by hand and slow so you can position your oil drain pan to catch the oil.  It is a good idea to have a few rags handy.
    11. Now let that drain for a couple minutes until it is completely empty.  Once it is drained wipe the drain plug clean. Put a new o ring on the plug and tighten it back in.  Don’t over tighten the bolt it just needs to be fairly tight.
    12. Now move your oil pan and your creeper and locate your oil filter.  This is kind of tricky you need to remember which way to put your oil filter wrench on.  It needs to pull the band tighter and to the left it may take a couple minutes but just look at it.  Once you figured that out then remove your oil filter.  Make sure to have the pan under the filter.
    13. Now set aside your old oil filter and drain pan.  Grab your new oil filter, take some of your new oil on your finger and rub around the o ring on the filter to help it seal better.  I always add oil inside the oil filter first before screwing it back on to get quicker pressure on first startup. Now you can use your hand to tighten the filter.  Tighten until it is hand tight, then give it a quarter turn more with the oil filter wrench.
    14. Now take off your oil cap which is usually located on the valve covers.  Remove this and place a clean funnel inside of the opening.  Open your oil containers and pour however many quarts of oil your manual says to use in.  Once you are done filling it replace the cover.
    15. Now lower your car back down to the ground.  Start the vehicle and let it run for a couple minutes.  Then inspect underneath the car to check for oil leaks.  Next, turn the vehicle off and let sit for 10-15 minutes and then remove your oil dipstick.  Wipe it with a clean towel, put it back in, remove, check the level, then wipe again, and put back in place.  Make sure it is in the ok area on the dipstick or the “Full” mark.
    16. Now take your used oil and oil filter to a local place that recycles the oil.

Now that you have changed your oil you should be ready for the winter season.  These are just the basics that the everyday go getter or backyard mechanic can accomplish.  These few simple steps of preventative maintenance can be the difference between being stranded outside in the freezing cold and just enjoying the drive.

Written by Cody Mammenga NDSCS Student

What should I put in my vehicle in case I am stranded in a winter storm?

August 20th, 2019

stranded-main_FullWhat should I put in my vehicle in case I am stranded in a winter storm?

This article will help answer this and be your survival guide to increase your chances of staying alive if the worst occurs.  This article is not written as a survival guide that is guaranteed, it is just written to show you a couple things that you should be aware of and have in your vehicle in the chance that you are in a survival situation.  I am not saying that you should be somebody who loads there vehicle with survival gear, but I am saying you may want to consider having some items in your vehicle just in case.

Winter is now approaching so you are going to want to decide whether or not you are going to go ahead and purchase some winter survival gear for your vehicle or not.  You can do as little or go as extreme as you want.

First we will discuss some tips on little things that you can do to help prepare yourself in case you are stranded.  The first thing that you can do is keep your vehicles gas gauge always above ½ of a tank.  This will allow you plenty of fuel to burn if you are stranded allowing you to have heat.  It will also insure that you will not be left with only the water left in the bottom of your tank freezing your gas lines.  This will prevent vehicle trouble from occurring.  If however you do have frozen gas lines you can put Seafoam in your tank and try cranking your vehicle over, it should unfreeze your gas lines.  I would recommend carrying one bottle of Seafoam in your trunk in case this happens while you are driving.

The next thing that you can do to help yourself out in the cold winter without doing anything is to make sure to carry your cell phone.  Make sure that it is charged.  If you are sick of always buying new car chargers like I am every time you get a new phone try investing in the ATD-5951 Power Inverter.  This ATD-5951 Power Inverter will allow you to bring your home phone charger with you and plug it in to your vehicle.  All you do is simply plug the inverter into your cigarette lighter or 12v power source inside your car and turn it on and plug your charger in.  It is simple and will pay for itself the first time you do not have to buy a car charger.  They work great because in the cold winter months the cold will decrease the batteries life so if you are planning on going on a road trip during the winter the ATD-5951 Power Inverter will allow you to charge your phone giving you some peace of mind.

This next thing is common sense, but I figured with our busy lives it is worth mentioning.  Make sure to dress warm when driving in the winter.  I know that all of us get in a hurry and leave the house with just our winter jacket on, but if you are stuck or stranded you will need gloves and a hat so you will not freeze your fingers and ears.  If you have trouble remembering to put these on before leaving the house do what I do and just set a set in the glove box for just in case.

Now we will move onto some of the things that you should carry in your survival kit.  You can use as little of this list, or as much.  I will say the things first that I feel are necessary and will then add on some extras.  First things first you are going to want to have a blanket in your vehicle.  I am assuming that you are wearing a heavy winter jacket this is why I would recommend a heavy blanket that is extremely warm first.  This will help you stay warm in the event of being stranded.  You may want to throw in one old winter jacket just in case, this would be considered one of the add ons.  Next you will want to have a couple pairs of warm socks and winter boots.  Old winter boots will work just fine.  These will help keep your feet warm and prevent you from getting frostbite.  Now that you have your body warm you will want to make sure that you have some food in your car.  You will want to have some high calorie food such as nuts, candy, anything that is able to stand cold temperatures and still be edible.  If you have old snow pants I would also advise putting these in.  They do not have to fit the best and they do not have to be in perfect condition, but something to keep your legs warm is a must.  With the snow pants I would also recommend some warm gloves, warm hats, and any facemasks.  If you have scarves those work excellent for keeping your neck and cheeks warm.  Now that you have all of these items to keep you warm we will discuss some items that you could add to this list and make it even better.  You could add some cheap candles and matches.  These will provide some heat just make sure to vent the fumes and be careful not to catch anything on fire.  These items listed above will help you from receiving frost bite on any part of your body.  Frost bite can become severe and lead to some serious problems.  Make sure to carry warm clothing at the very least when traveling to help prevent frost bite from occurring if you are stranded.

Now that we have some warm clothing and food we will go into some of the tools needed to survive.  The first thing that you should have is a good set of booster cables such as ATD 7972 Booster Cables these will help allow you to start a dead vehicle if you are stranded.  The best option for starting your car would be this DSRPSJ2212 Schumacher Jump Starter this is an all in one jump start pack that will allow you to jump start your vehicle without having another vehicle.  Another Jump Starter that will not only charge your phone, laptop and Jump Start your car without connecting to another vehicle and fit in your glove box………it is also rated to Jump Start Heavy Duty Diesels which is the Cal Van 560 mini jump starter and comes in an organized zippered case with all the cables and DC charger included . You will also want to have a shovel in your vehicle in case you need to dig out.  There are small collapsible shovels that will work great for this so that they do not take up too much space.  I would also recommend a flashlight such as this . This will help you to have light while you are stranded.  This Master Appliance Triggertorch is also a good idea.  This is a handheld blow torch with a 2 hour constant run time life.  It is rechargeable and will allow you to unfreeze frozen parts on your vehicle.  It will provide heat if need be, and will also provide flame.

Now that you have a list of some ideas of what to have you will also want to follow a couple of these instructions.  You will never want to wander off during a storm you will want to stay with your vehicle.  It provides shelter.  Next if your vehicle is running make sure that the tail pipes are clear otherwise harmful carbon monoxide can build up.  And lastly keep hope.

I know that this article is a little different but with winter fast approaching we really need to think about what we should put in our vehicles preparing for the worst.  It is always best to be over prepared than underprepared.  For more information on checks you can do to make sure your vehicle is ready for winter check out this article How should I winterize my car?.  I wish you all a good winter season and please take the time to prepare and avoid driving in bad weather.

Written by: Cody Mammenga an NDSCS Student

My Heater in my car only works on one speed. How to fix.

August 1st, 2019

lA common problem among vehicles is heating concerns.  In this article we will discuss what occurs when your vehicle’s blower motor won’t run or will only run on one speed.  We will discuss how you can test this and fix the problem.

When your blower motor doesn’t work most people just assume that the blower motor is at fault.  This is not true and can lead you to waste money on replacing a blower motor that will not fix your problem.  In order to understand how to diagnose and fix the problem we must first understand how a blower motor circuit works.

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An easy way to install button style wheel studs with the Lang 802

July 17th, 2019

Check out this video from Lang Tools on the 802 button style wheel stud installer. Looks pretty fast and easy!

Click here to purchase online!

The New LTI LT855A Texas Twister Mac Tools YouTube Demo

July 5th, 2019

What’s new on the LT855A Click Here (This video does not demonstrate new accessories)

Click here to purchase!


Click here to purchase!

Introducing The ATD 3661R1234yf 2-Way Brass Manifold Gauge Set

March 21st, 2019

ATD-3661 Manifold Gauge SetFeatures:
•Easy to recalibrate anti-flutter R1234yf gauges smooth out needle movement
•Manifold block assembled with (3) 12mm (F) fittings per SAE J2888
•60″ red and blue nylon barrier hoses with 12mm (M) fittings on both sides meets SAE J2888, EPA, SAE and UL standards
•60″ yellow hose with 12mm fitting on one side and 1/2″-16 LH ACME on the other meets SAE J2888
•R1234yf standard couplers


Click here to purchase

The Robinair 34788NI and 34788NI-H Comparison Chart to the 34788 and 34988

February 22nd, 2019

Confused on all the different Robinair R134a Recycle Reclaim and Recharge service machines when trying to make a purchasing decision? Here is a link to the comparison chart direct from Robinair’s website. Tried to find a video but I see nothing yet on the Robinair website or Youtube. Hope this helps! Robinair AC service center comparison chart

ROB-34788NI Robinair 34788NI Premier Refrigerant Recovery MachineROB-34788 Robinair 34788 R-134A Refrigerant Recycler Cool TechROB-34988 Robinair 34988 Premium Cool-Tech Center

34788NI               34788                 34988

13 Alternator and Battery Testing and Diagnostic Tips by

January 28th, 2019

Article written by

  1. One Test Is Not Enough

If only battery voltage is present at the battery on a running engine, does this mean the alternator is “bad?” No, it does not. That only means that the alternator is not charging, but does not reveal why. Therefore, it does not prove a faulty ­alternator. All too often the ­alternator is condemned by ­technicians due to this test alone.


  1. Look It Up

For some, it’s normal to see as high as 16 volts for long periods at a time. For others, it’s ­normal to see as low as 13 volts. For some, a constant 13.6 volts is an indication of a problem. Still yet, it’s perfectly normal for others to see the alternator not charge at all intermittently. Some alternators are controlled only with an internal or external regulator. Some are controlled only by the PCM. Still yet, others are controlled by a voltage regulator and the PCM. Not knowing what controls what, and how it is supposed to function, can’t cause a ­misdiagnosis or cause a critical problem to be over looked. Take the time to look at the service information.



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Lush Lawn Fertilizing and Weed Control Serving the Ottertail Lake Area

February 3rd, 2017

Arvig phone book Lush Lawn ad Mock UP

  • Commercial and Residential Fertilizing and Weed Control

  • Local Ottertail Lake Minnesota

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  • Granular Slow and Quick Release Fertilizing

  • Free Estimates

Call or Text Dave Sturdevant 701-866-4719

Checking your starting system on your vehicle

July 19th, 2014

starterChecking your starting system on your vehicle One of the most common problems on vehicles is that they simply will not start.  There are several different factors that can affect whether or not your vehicle will start.  In this article we will discuss some simple tests that will allow you to test your entire starting system.  This will help you save money and do it yourself. Ok, the only real tool that you are going to need to test your starting system is a simple multimeter.  You can use a simple multimeter such as this ATD5536 Digital Multimeter or as advanced as this FLU885 Fluke 88 Multimeter.  Either one of these meters will work to properly check your starting system. Read the rest of this entry »