Liz and Jim at Hawthorne Auto Clinic are two of my favorite role models for how to run a business and how to take care of a car. I’ll brag about how well they take care of their employees and their shop and their little part of Hawthorne in the 40’s at the end of this email but first and foremost . . . let’s get everybody in and out of our cars in great working order in a cold snap.
If the prudent advice to just stay home (or where ever you are) and enjoy the snow flakes that have already fallen isn’t practical for you, there are a few things to do to save yourself from breaking a key in a lock, wrecking the motor for your windshield wipers or lurching down the road with half frosted windows and flapping chains.
Liz’s first piece of advice seemed so nice and logical but it’s exactly the kind of thing I would do without thinking . . . when the air gets below freezing, she just wants to remind everyone not to hop in the car and turn the windshield wipers on to clear the frost off.
She and Jim like seeing us all of us in their shop but not just because the linkage has broken in our wipers or we’ve burned the wiper motor out. A gentle pull from the blades from outside before you get in will let you know if they are frozen in place or ready to slide.
Her second tip is to be proactive about the chances of car locks getting water in them in Portland rainy weather and then freezing so the key won’t go in or won’t turn.
You can always heat up the key some how with the hope that it will melt through the ice or you could get a long extension cord on that blow dryer and hover it over the lock. Even better to go out to an auto store or well stocked general store and get a little tube of lock de-icer. That way you can put some liquid in on a good day so that it doesn’t freeze up as easily to help keep the water out that could cause a bunch of grief later. Liz keeps tubes of the de-icer for sale if you ask at their counter since she recommended it so much in years past to stranded customers.
And then there’s the simple fact that our cars do a whole lot better with the right kind of engine coolant and windshield washer fluid with some antifreeze built in. Motor oil thickens up in the cold so having the right (ideally synthetic) motor oil is more important for those really cold starts too.
A lot of cars, especially if you plan to do some ski trips or snow trips this year, can benefit from a set of winter wiper blades that are sealed off with rubberized material where regular blades have exposed arched metal that catches too much snow to operate well.
So, if you are due for an oil change anyway, you may want to join me in skipping the quick stop oil change place and make yourself an appointment at Hawthorne Auto Clinic or another full service shop instead.
There won’t be anyone standing outside waving a $10 off today sign in the bitter cold, but the extra money we each spend could find and fix a few weak spots we all want to plan ahead for instead of live through on the way to Mt Hood or grandma’s house.
Oil changes with a full car inspection at Hawthorne Auto Clinic are $65 to $125 depending on the model of car and quarts of oil needed.
Last year I drove my Toyota Sienna into their parking lot right before a big road trip for that oil change, all the right winter coolants, a pre-road trip inspection and a touch of the de-icer in my locks and went on to have a great season of cold weather driving.
If you manage to avoid driving in this storm, Liz highly, highly recommends picking a reasonably warm, sunny afternoon for some practice runs with your car chains before attempting to keep a few kids happy in the back seat and your adult partnership intact while installing them for the first time on the side of a busy road.
One of our members wrote in last year to share some East Coast cold weather survival tips. When you have the chance to plan ahead, put a sunshade, piece of cardboard or old comforter on the outside of your windshield then simply remove the ice or snow with the covering in the morning- no scraping necessary. And for your locks, cover one lock with duck tape and simply remove it and your key should work, if there was no water to freeze.
The folks at Hawthorne Auto Clinic tried to explain to me the difference between defrosting and de fogging and when to use outside air and when to use recirculated air to help clear windows when a warm car full of people meets a cold car on the move. But, I must confess, I still don’t get it. So, if anyone reading this has a good way to remember which is needed when, please let the rest of us know.
The bottom line is . . . if your car is a 1990 or newer model and you appreciate a clean, well run shop with staff more interested in knowing you for years than squeezing every dime out of you today, give Liz and Jim a call. They’ll be happy to hear from you. If you need a list of other places you can trust for body work, tire alignment, etc, they’ll share the names with you of all the places they do business with when they send out work to other shops.
One of these days, when I don’t have so many cold car tips to share, I’ll write about the start of their shop which is a really dear story. For now I’ll just say it comes as no surprise to me that they recently were named Civics Rights Champions of the year by the Labor Commission.
Jim and Liz know in their heart of hearts that well treated, well paid employees actually cost a company less (and earn it more) than any short cuts we could all take in the ways we treat each other.
Since we are a co-op full of families that live out the fact that the way we treat each other makes our lives and the lives of our children all that much better, I am proud to count these great business owners as co-workers in our community building efforts.