Cold snap keeps area plumbers, auto firms busy
January 23, 2014 11:00 AM
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With the drop in temperatures much like Indiana County saw at the beginning of January, plumbers and other professionals are left with more work than usual.

“We’ve had a bunch of burst pipes that we’re still repairing,” said Russ King of Davis Brothers Heating and Air Conditioning in Indiana. “We have one house that has 30 breaks in it that we know of.”

When pipes burst, King said, it could take anywhere from an hour to a day to fix the damage.

“It depends, sometimes it’s just one or two bursts; some could take a day.”

King suggests that residents keep their heat on and, if they have sinks on outside walls, to leave cabinet doors open. “Basically that’s all you can do,” he said.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania students missed the last wave of frigid temperatures while they were away on winter break, but they’ve been welcomed back to Indiana with more bitter cold.

The Facilities Operations Department for the campus sent a reminder to students and faculty on Tuesday to check that windows are closed and to make sure doors close behind them. In addition, those employees with control of HVAC equipment in their office and classroom have been asked to turn the “heat” setting on the machine on.

Students are asked to report unusually cold areas to the Facilities Operations Group or campus police.

Meanwhile, those who are out and about are encouraged to be mindful of the cold when it comes to vehicle maintenance.

From keeping fuel lines from freezing to maintaining a firm grip on the road with the right tires, there are a number of factors to take into consideration, according to those at local mechanic shops and tire companies.

One area cold temperatures can impact is tire pressure. According to Dave O’Hara, secretary/treasurer at Lias Tire in Indiana Borough, the change, however, may not be dramatic.

“If it gets really cold, it can drop your air pressure by a couple of pounds,” he said.

Though it may not be drastic, it could be enough, in newer cars, to trip the light that signals tire pressure is low.

With freezing roadways and a range of wintry precipitation, snow tires are key to winter driving, according to O’Hara.

“Any snow tires are going to do a decent job,” he said.

While all-season tires meet the minimum requirements for snow traction, he said, a snow tire — indicated by a mountain symbol on the tire — will likely do better in the snow.

A common misconception, he said, is that a vehicle with four-wheel drive will do all right with snow tires on front and all-weather tires in the back. The tire industry actually recommends keeping snow tires on all four wheels in the winter months, O’Hara said.

“If you’re going around a corner and get so much traction in the front, it will cause the back end to skid around. Then you’re in trouble,” he said.

While it’s always important, during the winter, O’Hara advises drives to ensure their tires have a safe amount of tread. Drivers may be able to tell how well their tires are holding up based on performance in wintry conditions, he said. But it’s not a bad idea to take a good look at tires to make sure they are up to snuff.

“Any tire, once it gets below half tread, the winter traction isn’t as good,” O’Hara said.

Karl Markel, of Karl’s Auto Repair in Indiana Borough, said he hasn’t seen anything unusual related to the extreme low temperatures of recent weeks. But that doesn’t mean there are typical maintenance matters to keep an eye on during the winter.

His advice? Simply let your car warm up before you drive. Be careful with putting windows down in the cold weather — forcing them can break the regulators in automatic windows.

Other area mechanics also suggest changing your oil if needed and not letting your car get too low on gas.

And, when having your car serviced, Markel suggests making sure your mechanic checks all the vehicle’s fluids and lights.

“If you’re under the hood already, everything else is right within reach,” he said.

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