Winter is just around the corner once more. And, while you’re no doubt enjoying the break from the summertime heat, you should really start preparing your auto shop for the winter months. Waiting until the last minute is never a good idea. By preparing early, you ensure that you’re able to keep working through the worst that Mother Nature can dish out, without batting an eye. What do you need to consider in the way of winter prep, though? Below, we’ll discuss some of the most important steps and considerations.
This one should be a no-brainer. You’re going to need a source of heat during the wintertime. The number of heaters, and their relative size, should be based on the amount of square footage in your shop. We recommend one smaller heater per service bay, although you can heat two bays with a medium-sized heater. If you have gas run in your shop, consider ceiling mounted gas heaters. Otherwise, you’ll need to use electric heaters. Whatever you do, make sure the heaters are installed correctly so that they do not become safety hazards. Keep in mind manufacturer specifications when it comes to distance from walls, ceilings, lifts, electrical lines, etc.
Mechanics depend on their hands for just about all the work they perform. While tools do the heavy lifting, you need your hands to be useable to operate those tools. That can’t happen if they’re frozen solid. Invest in good wintertime mechanic gloves that allow a decent range of movement, but also offer insulation against winter’s chill. You’ll find a host of different brands on the market, including Mechanix Wear, North Flex, and Clutch Gear/Superior Glove to name just a few.
It is also important that you are able to keep warm while working on cars in the shop. Heaters will help, but you cannot eliminate the need to go from inside to outside to pull cars into the shop for service. That means making sure you have the right outwear. The good news is that if you work with a uniform service, they can supply you with jackets that match the rest of your work uniform. If you are on your own when it comes to clothing, you’ll find plenty of options out there, but Dickies remains one of the most popular choices for their durability and affordability. Another option is a heated hoodie or jacket from Milwaukee. These are powered by a rechargeable battery and will keep you warm through your shift.
Salt plays a vital role in road safety during the winter, helping to melt slush, snow and ice and keep the roadways clear. It also plays an important role around your shop for the same reasons. You should stock up on road salt for use in your parking lot, bay driveways, walkways, and more. This is a vital consideration for the safety of those working on the premises, but also for your customers.
Salt will only work so well. In the event of heavy snowfall, you’ll need to get out there and do some manual labor. We recommend having at least two snow shovels, although you may require more depending on the size of your business. Shovels make quick work of deep snow, allowing you to ice the cement or asphalt and prevent further accumulations, as well as keeping melted snow from turning to ice when temperatures plunge at night.
You will want to invest in some sort of de-icer product. For instance, both Motor Medic and Sprayway manufacturing a sprayable de-icer that works on things like windshields, windows, and door locks. Prestone also offers a similar product. Make sure you stuck up on these products, though, particularly if you live in an area where winter can be prolonged. A single 12 or 16-ounce can won’t last all that long.
De-Icer can only go so far. If you have serious ice buildup and need to clear those windshields and windows fast, go the manual route. Ice scrapers allow you to chisel away thick ice without having to wait for a chemical formulation to work. Some products, such as Prestone De-Icer, include both a chemical spray and a scraper can top so you can make even shorter work of this task.
Winter goes hand in hand with less available light. That’s bad news for mechanic shops, which can be dim and dark even at the best of times. Make sure you invest in supplemental lighting for each service bay. Freestanding floodlights provide good area lighting, but there is a wide range of additional work lights out there, too.
With the colder weather, you’ll be working with your bay doors closed. That can be deadly, as it allows exhaust fumes to collect and concentrate in the shop. Use exhaust hoses to route those fumes under bay doors or through exhaust vents on the doors.
Cold weather means a need to focus on maintenance for your mission-critical equipment, like your air compressor. Make sure to have the compressor’s oil changed, and double check that the filter is in good condition.
Jump Starter Condition
Winter has a way of sapping the charge from car batteries, so make sure that your jump starter is up to the task. You will also want to have a wheel charger for in-shop use, but a jump starter is a must-have as well, whether you’re helping someone stranded on the road, or just trying to crank a car in your parking lot.
Stock Up on Supplies
Finally, make sure you stock up on supplies that see more demand during the winter. These include headlights, wiper blades, engine belts and the like.
With the right prep, your shop should be able to handle the arrival of winter without too much trouble. Just focus on the tips above and you’ll get through the cold months just fine.