Prevent freeze-related disaster with home/car maintenance
Still singing the “ChiBeria” blues? Bad enough to have record-low temperatures on a day that some researchers say is the saddest of the year, but throw in a flat tire, frozen pipe or temperamental furnace, and your troubles could also include some costly repairs.
Experts say most weather-related home and car problems can be prevented by paying attention to maintenance schedules and keeping machines clean. And know that your deep-freeze problems might not disappear with rising temperatures. In fact, if your woes involved frozen water pipes, the real trouble may be yet to come.
“We’re not that busy now but come Wednesday and Thursday, we will be,” said Tom Howe, owner of Southtown Plumbing and Sewer Service in Orland Park. (It has additional locations in Oak Lawn, Oak Forest, Chicago and Chicago Heights.)
“People don’t panic over no water; they panic over too much water,” Howe said. “The calls usually start coming in when everything thaws.”
That’s when frozen pipes burst and the cost of a repair, $200 to $500, seems miniscule compared with cleaning up the mess and replacing wallboard, carpeting and cabinets, he said.
This weekend’s forecast of rising temperatures could bring a trifecta of flooding trouble: bursting pipes, melting snow and rain.
Howe said freezing pipes can be prevented by adding insulation and leaving a faucet to trickle in the affected area. Such areas might include poorly insulated sections of the house, such as crawlspaces, spare bath rooms or additions.
“The wind does more damage than cold because it penetrates the walls,” Howe said. “Sunday was very windy. That’s why we expect to get lots of calls later this week.”
Monday, he said, would bring a flood of calls to furnace repairers.
“Wednesday, it will be for plumbers,” he said.
Indeed, over at King Heating in Oak Forest (with locations also in Frankfort, Homewood and Chicago), phones were ringing steadily Monday.
“Most of the problems are due to a lack of maintenance,” operations manager Ken Ahrens said. “People don’t change the filter and they don’t have the furnaces cleaned regularly.”
Cold weather puts extra strain on the machine and those that are poorly tended to often break down.
Though a normal repair doesn’t take long, getting a service person to your home can take some time on busy days. And depending on the problem, it can be costly, Ahrens said.
“More costly than a routine cleaning,” he said.
During periods of extreme cold, Ahrens said, homeowners should make sure drafty windows are covered, filters are clean and that the thermostat is left at a consistent temperature.
“In severe cold, when people turn the thermostat down, it takes even longer to reheat later,” he said. “That puts added strain on the furnace.”
No matter how toasty your home is, at some point you will have to leave it. So make sure your car is able to handle the deep freeze.
Rick Terese, manager of Paton’s Auto Repair in Oak Lawn, said the No. 1 reason cars don’t start in cold weather is a bad battery.
“Cells fail in cold weather,” he said.
Have it checked, he said, and if it needs replacing, do so. While you’re at it, make sure antifreeze levels are good and that your car’s tires have sufficient air.
And, just in case, when heading out on snowy or chilly days, make sure you have a warm blanket, a flashlight, a road flare and other emergency supplies in your vehicle.
Vince DeCaro, owner of Vince’s Towing in Evergreen Park, said the top three reasons people need a tow truck are 1) a dead battery, 2) a flat tire and 3) a frozen gas line.
If you find yourself stuck, know that you have a right to know towing costs before any work is done.
“A lot of chasers will try to steal business from reputable towers. They’ll also try to gouge customers, especially in bad weather,” he said. “We contract with the Evergreen Park police and people still try to undermine us.”
DeCaro said, “Ask hook-up and mileage fees ahead of time.” Vince’s charges $75 for a hook-up and $2.50 per mile to a body shop of your choice. Size, make or model of the vehicle should not make a difference, he said.