Winter took a serious toll on vehicles

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles about the effects this winter’s extreme weather had on the local area.

ELKINS – Massive amounts of snow, ice and salt this winter caused serious damage not only to local roads, but also the vehicles that drive on them.

“It’s been a hard winter for everyone,” Elkins Fordland Service Manager Kent Winn said. “And their cars have taken a toll as well.”

Winn said winter weather puts a larger amount of wear and tear on vehicles than normal driving conditions.

“We get a lot of people coming in this time of year who have damage to their drivelines, drive shafts, suspensions, steering, you name it,” Winn said. “People come in for alignments due to potholes in the roads or they need their shocks replaced. They come in for all kinds of service.”

While some wear and tear is inevitable, Winn explained the best way to make sure your vehicle lasts through winter is by investing in preventive maintenance. One item to invest in is winter or studded tires, which have more traction, making it easier to drive in ice and snow.

“It’s really important for drivers in this area to invest in winter tires,” Winn said. “They may be a little more expensive but they make driving in colder weather safer and give the driver a little more control.”

Studded tires have an improved grip on the road due to metal studs embedded into the tire itself and can improve acceleration and braking. Studded tires offer many benefits to drivers but they also come with restrictions.

In the U.S., 30 states allow the use of studded tires with date restrictions, including West Virginia, where studded tires are permitted between Nov. 1 and April 15, according to Eleven states prohibit metal studded-tires due to how hard they are on the condition of roads, wearing down pavement, causing rutting of roads and other hazardous driving conditions like excessive spray, hydroplaning and steering problems.

“The best way to keep your vehicle in premium driving condition year round is to invest in a maintenance plan at a local dealership,” Winn said. “It’s really cheaper in the long run because you can catch the smaller problems before they turn into bigger ones.”

However, it’s not only private citizens whose vehicles have been damaged by the weather. Bob Pingley, operations manager for the city of Elkins, said trucks that treat the roads in Elkins have experienced “more use this year” than in previous ones.

“Everybody did a good job of keeping on top of everything,” Pingley said. “We didn’t have many problems this year. We just had to be out there running the trucks more, keeping the roads clear, and keeping on top of any maintenance issue that comes up. Long winters like this are hard.”

Pingley said the city’s new salt truck helped them manage the winter conditions more effectively, but increased fuel costs and wear and tear are both issues his crews have consistently had to overcome.

The key to a vehicle making it safely through the winter is preparation, the experts agreed.

“If people just stay on top of it and make sure that they take the time to ensure that their vehicle is safe for the roads, then they shouldn’t have to worry about too much,” Winn said. “If you consistently inspect your vehicle not just before or after the winter months, but two to three times a year, then it’s easier to fix the problems when they arise.”