Mike Graveline, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Auto Skills Center manager, instructs a group of 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers on how to conduct checks on hoses, gaskets and fluids during a recent vehicle winterization class. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Fort Drum Auto Skills Center staff assists
community members with vehicle winterization
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
Anticipating the first blast of winter weather, more and more Fort Drum community members are winterizing their vehicles.
Mike Graveline, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Auto Skills Center manager, said that is evident by the number of people coming in to put on winter tires and changing antifreeze.
Graveline said that the staff is always willing to assist customers with the space, equipment and instruction to perform winter maintenance themselves, but they also offer a class at 5:30 p.m. every Thursday for those who aren’t sure where to start.
Recently, members of the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers took advantage of the class. Graveline began with a rundown of items that will make a vehicle perform better in the winter and items to store in the trunk in case of emergency.
Some of these items include a first aid kit, flares, rechargeable LED flashlight, hand warmers and a shovel.
The group then huddled around the BOSS vehicle for instruction on how to conduct checks on tires, hoses, gaskets and fluids.
Graveline said that he is a big believer in using a dry gas additive to prevent water in the fuel from freezing. He also keeps his vehicle topped off with deicing windshield washer fluid year-round, so he doesn’t have to replace it seasonally.
“But if you’re going to change up your fluid, first empty out what you’ve got in,” he said. “If you mix it with the regular blue fluid, it will streak your whole windshield.”
Graveline said that all-season tires are not the same as winter tires.
“You want to have a good set of winter tires on your vehicle when you are driving, because that will make all the difference between staying on the road and going off the road,” he said. “If you don’t have winter tires and hit some slushy road, hang on for the ride.”
If a vehicle gets stuck in a snow bank, Graveline said that having a bag of kitty litter or comparable material to put under the tires will create enough traction to get out.
“Cat litter works amazing, and I buy it every winter,” said Sgt. Donovan Clausen, BOSS treasurer. “When I was in college, I used to drive up and down the highways in Minnesota with cat litter and some shovels and spend all day digging people out.”
Graveline also recommended getting the vehicle washed regularly to remove salt and prevent rusting. Some people wash their cars weekly in the winter, but Graveline cautions not to do so when the temperature is below 30 degrees.
“I tell people to wash their cars at least twice a month to get the salt off,” he said. “You don’t want to do that when it’s really cold, because the soap will freeze to your car. I’ve got people calling me here all the time that they can’t get the soap off their cars, and it’s 10 degrees outside. Nothing you can do except heat up the car for about 20 or 30 minutes until the soap comes off.”
Pfc. Connor Dahlgren, with D Company, 7th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, said that he learned a lot about winter driving at home in Minnesota, but the class gave him some tips about vehicle maintenance.
“Having that knowledge and knowing that I can just come here and have all that checked out is going to be helpful,” he said. “Some of that, like making sure I have the right coolant and checking brake fluid, I didn’t think was a big deal, but now I know.”
Dahlgren also said that he attended the class so he could brief his unit about vehicle winterization.
“We have a lot of people who are from down South, so I know this information can help them,” he said.
The Auto Skills Center is located in Bldg. 11120, Iraqi Freedom Drive. It is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call the Auto Skills Center at (315) 772-7902.