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Winterizing in the 'Sunshine State'?: Gatto's Tire prepares 'snowbirds' for those occasional flights back to the cold

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Winterizing in the 'Sunshine State'?: Gatto's Tire prepares 'snowbirds' for those occasional flights back to the cold

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, thousands of "snowbirds" migrate to Florida each year in search of sunshine, warm water and easy living. But what happens when a snowbird has to make a sudden -- albeit temporary -- return to the frosty North? Gatto's Tire & Auto Service, an eight-store chain based in Melbourne, Fla., makes sure their cars are ready for the journey.

"We don't find that many people are going to be driving up north," says John Tidwell, Gatto's manager of sales, but those who do, he explains, want to know they can make the trip safely.

Gatto's technicians prep north-bound cars according to a program developed by Gatto's Tire called "Milestone Maintenance."

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The program "is based on what a particular customer's vehicle is," says Tidwell. "We check items on a vehicle from a safety perspective, but we also verify what the automobile manufacturer has recommended at certain intervals. It's ala carte, if you will, based on that specific need, not some program we put together just to up sell. It has legitimate value to it."

The program calls for cooling system level checks and hose inspections. "We check wiper blades. Down here we replace wiper blades more frequently because of the heat, not because of wear due to frost or snow."

But the most important components to check on a vehicle moving back into cold weather are tires, says Tidwell. "Starting at the core of our business, you want to make sure they have good air pressure; that's the first thing. You want to verify that there's plenty of tread rubber on the tires. You may have problems with brake-related issues; you want to make sure there's no irregular wear on the brakes."

After tires and brakes are brought up to speed, you check antifreeze, though he notes "you have to remember that we find in most cases if you have an adequate mixture for warm weather, it will certainly be the same in cold climates."

The operative word is "preventive," according to Tidwell. "It's much easier and less costly if we identify potential problems before they occur. We're strict in that we want to identify specific needs based on the individual vehicle and not some program just to up-sell some services. We do it individually based on year, make and model," which sets Gatto's Tire apart from some competitors "that provide a menu of services they would like to perform regardless of whether the OEM suggests it or not."

Gatto's "Milestone Maintenance" program also yields benefits for the company itself. "It's a great program for our employees because we're not asking them to do something that would compromise their integrity."

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Best Practices: Tips -- No pressure car care

Gatto's Tire & Service refers to its proprietary "Milestone Maintenance" program when preparing customers' vehicles for drives up north during winter months. Some of the many services available include:

* Brake inspection

* Brake system flushes

* CV drive axle check and replacement

* Electrical system test

* Fuel system maintenance

* Transmission fluid check and exchange

Gatto's Tire also offers six different kinds of oil changes. "Milestone Maintenance is a simple way to get the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have done all you can to keep your vehicle in top shape," reads the brochure Gatto's Tire uses to promote the program.

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