TSTC Automotive Technology students offer vehicle winterization tips

TSTC Automotive Technology student Joseph Fredericks works on an engine during class this week. Fredericks and his classmates have learned the proper ways to prepare vehicles for winter weather. (Courtesy: Texas State Technical College/TSTC)

HARLINGEN — Texas State Technical College’s Automotive Technology students learned one thing from February’s winter storm.

The students learned to have their vehicle prepared for an ice storm and a lengthy period of not driving it.

Recently several of the students shared some of the vehicle winterization tips they have gleaned from their time at TSTC.

“One of the first things I learned was that if you do not have winter (tire) treads on your vehicle, make sure the treads are still good,” said Joseph Fredericks. “You need to make sure the treads are still in the right specifications, and you can find that information on the sidewall.”

Fredericks said one of the easiest ways to check a tire’s tread is the “penny test.” He said he still uses a penny on his tires and explained how it works.

“If you place the penny with Lincoln’s head down and can see the top of his head, you need new tires,” he said. “It is the classic way to check your tires, and it is very reliable.”

David Lopez-Cortez said he made sure his battery was still in good condition prior to winter weather arriving in the region.

“You cannot go anywhere if you have a bad battery,” he said. “Check the data on your battery, including when it was installed. It should be on top of the battery and easy to check.”

One of the best ways to check the tread on a tire is the “penny test.” TSTC Automotive Technology students have used the technique during lab sessions. (Courtesy: Texas State Technical College/TSTC)

He also said taking a vehicle to a dealership or local automotive store to have the battery checked is a good idea.

“Taking your car to a local service center is always the best option,” he said. “They will be able to tell you after reading the battery the type of condition it is in.”

One tip that Lopez-Cortez said he used was keeping his car in the garage during the storm and starting it with the garage door open at least once or twice a day.

“This will help maintain the flow of fluids in your vehicle, and you will be able to start it when the storm passes without any issues,” he said.

Adding antifreeze to the vehicle is also a common occurrence during the winter. However, students said adding the right antifreeze is key to the life of the vehicle.

Brady Kennemur recommended reading the owner’s manual to add the correct antifreeze.

“Many (automobile) companies are making their own fluids for (their) vehicles, and that is the only thing you should put in the engine,” he said.

Lopez-Cortez said using a coolant tester will let motorists know if the vehicle is protected from cold weather.

“If you just add water to the reservoir, it could freeze quickly. That is why you should put in the correct fluids that are recommended by the manufacturer,” he said.

Kennemur said when the windshield is covered with ice, the best way to clear it is with a scraper or de-icing spray.

“You do not want to pour hot water on the windshield because that could lead to immediate cracking,” he said. “If the windshield is covered with snow, wipe it off to get to the ice and use a scraper to remove it.”

He also said that having reliable wipers will help during a winter storm.

“I always check my wipers before the winter season to make sure they are in good working condition,” he said.

The need for qualified automotive service technicians and mechanics is expected to grow in Texas over the next several years. According to onetonline.org, Texas has more than 60,000 technicians employed around the state, and that number is forecast to top 65,000 by 2028. The average annual salary for a technician in the state is $45,520.

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology and an Automotive Technician certificate of completion at the Harlingen, Sweetwater and Waco campuses. Several other certificates, including Chrysler Specialization, Tesla START Technician and Toyota T-TEN Specialization, and a Basic Automotive occupational skills award, are also available, depending on campus location.

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.