Winterization. Fuel economy. Trust. On this carefree, late-summer day in Maine, these subjects were not something this automotively-challenged female wanted to consider. However, recalling Dad’s suggestion, offered many years ago, that I make an appointment to get my snow tires put on and my coolant topped off, this “good daughter” visited Mike Morin’s Auto Center, Hebert’s Auto Service and Rowe Lewiston to find out what they have to offer.

Even on my best days, the thought of addressing a “mechanic” directly caused me to experience a dreadful certainty that no matter what was really wrong with my car, at the end of the day my pocketbook would be lighter and my ego deflated. At least for today, I could not have been more wrong.

At Mike Morin’s, I was introduced to Paul Deschenes, the shop foreman, who offered the following comment, “Communication between the customer and technician is probably the most importing thing [to ensure that] things get done correctly and economically.”

George Hebert, owner of Hebert’s Auto, as well as Ron Harrington, service manager, and Troy Hulit, service advisor at Rowe Lewiston, echoed this sentiment, adding that honesty and level-talk with customers are important tools. Hebert added, “When my refrigerator’s broken, I call somebody else to fix it.” These automotive oracles really and truly are human, after all.

Several years ago my children purchased an emergency roadside kit for me. It nestles neatly into a corner of my trunk. Deschenes, Hebert, Harrington and Hulit shared suggestions regarding routine maintenance to help me see to it that my childrens’ thoughtful gift will never be put to use. According to Deschenes, although “tune-ups [like Dad would have done] are not as critical as they used to be,” it is still important to schedule your vehicle for a general check-up before the days get too short.

Citing a survey conducted on behalf of the Car Care Council, Motor Trend magazine noted, “70 percent of people admitted to not winterizing their vehicles.” As we all know, a wintertime breakdown in the Northeast can result in an extremely dangerous situation, and a properly maintained vehicle is both a safe vehicle and an efficient vehicle. The following tips can help to ensure your families’ safety, and many will also contribute to your vehicle’s fuel efficiency:

Check your coolant. Although coolant may look fine, antifreeze can go bad and could require replacement every few years. Your coolant should be clean with a low freeze point.

Check your oil every 2,000 miles. For years, the industry standard has been to change your oil every 3,000 to 3,500 miles. However, depending on the age of your vehicle and your driving habits, this could be extended significantly, especially if you use a good quality oil and filter.

Change your windshield wiper blades and fill your fluid reservoirs. As a result of sun and dirt, wiper blades can deteriorate and become ineffective. Deschenes recommends checking your wiper blades every 12 to 18 months and replacing them no less than every two years. Fluid reservoirs can be easily and inexpensively topped off every time you check your oil.

Check your air filter. Ask your technician to check it with every oil change. Clean air filters will increase your fuel efficiency.

Don’t let your gas tank dip below half-full. According to Harrington and Hulit, condensation forms in gas tanks when gas levels are low. Hulit recommends keeping a good supply of dry gas on hand, and using it about every other tankful to combat moisture problems.

Make sure your headlights are aimed properly and that the lenses are clear. Headlights become critical as our nights get longer. Poorly aligned headlights and scratched lenses will limit your visibility.

Utilize all-season radials or snow tires and check that they are properly pressurized and well treaded. According to Hebert, “Heat is what wears the tire.” A properly inflated tire will run cooler and maintain a good tread for a longer period of time.

Check your cabin air filter. Deschenes suggests asking your technician to check this as these sometimes become clogged with some very nasty things, which will directly affect the quality of the air inside your vehicle.

Finally, Harrington and Hulit recommend asking your technician to perform a “multi-point inspection” which will cover just about everything from the spark plugs to the suspension.

The relatively minor cost of a little preparation can go a long way toward ensuring safe travels for you and your loved ones when the temperature drops and the snow flies. With service centers located at either end of Lewiston and Auburn, as well as in between, you don’t need to look much further than your own backyard to find a service center and technician that you can rely upon to give you good advice and excellent service.

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