Warm welcome: Martino Tire services cooling systems so its customers don't go crazy from the heat

May 1, 2007

Even in Florida, where the residents are no strangers to living in heat and humidity year-round, there are periods when this type of weather becomes particularly intense.

Such periods can wreak havoc on vehicles. During these times, automotive service technicians work diligently to ensure that vehicles receive the proper maintenance. The employees of Martino Tire Co. of Kendall Falls are no exception.

Preparing for weather extremes

Martino Tire General Manager Mike Alvarez says that when customers come into the shop to prepare their vehicles for a hot-weather spurt, he and his employees do a series of tasks. Among other things, he says, "We check a vehicle's belts, the hoses, the clamps and its cooling system.

"We make sure the belts aren't cracked and that the hoses aren't too soft or too brittle, and, with respect to the cooling system, we make sure that the pH level in the antifreeze is correct." Alvarez and his staff also make certain that all of a car's fluids are topped off.

General technician Gary Dickens echoes Alvarez's comments. He not only tests the pH level of the coolant, but also checks for an electrolyte condition because that "can cause damage to the radiator and the other components of the car."


Dickens also checks to verify that the radiator hoses are not swollen and that the belts are intact. Because many customers have problems with their vehicle's air conditioning during hot weather, he also checks the cabin air filter and makes certain it is not dirty or clogged.

While checking filters, examine the air filter and fuel filter, says Dickens. "When I see a dirty air filter, it's time for a new fuel filter. Not everybody agrees with that, but I believe strongly in the long run that I'm right. I've seen fuel pumps fail because of clogged fuel filters many times."

Technicians also should check the hoses in the system to make certain there are no leaks or that there is no oil coming through any of the system's seals, according to Alvarez.

Service intervals

There is no universal timetable when it comes to car maintenance. The point at which customers should come in to have their vehicles serviced varies because, according to Alvarez, it depends on the age and make of the vehicle.

He says that drivers should have all their vehicle components checked at least every 20,000 miles. However, tire dealers have the opportunity to check everything more regularly when customers bring their cars in for an oil change (which, according to Dickens, is a service that should be performed every 3,000 miles).

Cooling systems. Alvarez says the frequency of cooling system maintenance depends on several factors.

"For some cars, it doesn't need to be serviced until you reach 60,000 miles, according to their manufacturers. Other cars need it flushed every 30,000 miles. It all depends on what type of coolant it has."

Alvarez recommends checking a vehicle's cooling system every 30,000 miles.

"It depends on a manufacturer's specifics," says Dickens. "General Motors says that their coolant is good for 100,000 miles. It's really a matter of opinion.

The facts are that it would last up to 100,000 miles, but under severe conditions the components won't last that long."


In his experience, Dickens feels that a cooling system should be checked based upon the type of coolant it has. If a vehicle's cooling system uses ethylene glycol ("green coolant"), he recommends it be brought in for a check-up every 30,000 miles. If, on the other hand, a vehicle's cooling system contains Dexcool, it should only have to be checked every 100,000 miles.

Air conditioning. Air conditioning system maintenance depends on another set of factors. As a general rule, Alvarez recommends getting it checked every 20,000 miles. However, he also says an air conditioner usually will not need to have maintenance performed on it unless it begins to malfunction. Indications of a malfunction include a decrease in the amount of air flowing through the air vents and a failure of the air to be cool.

Dickens says the environment in which the car resides directly affects the condition of a cabin air filter. If a car is kept in good condition, the cabin air filter will remain relatively clean and the air conditioner will not need to be serviced as often. In this case, he recommends checking both the cabin air filter and air conditioner every 15,000 miles.

The timetable for maintenance on an in-line refrigerant filter is slightly different. Dickens says that this type of filter should be replaced every two years, but often gets changed only when it fails completely. "In my 15 years of working on air conditioning, I have not had one customer come in and ask for an in-line refrigerant filter replacement only."

Proper vs. preventive

Both Alvarez and Dickens have worked in the automotive repair business for many years. Dickens has been a technician for 15 years, and before becoming a manager, Alvarez was also a technician.

With three technicians and eight bays at his disposal, Alvarez provides a wealth of services at Martino Tire. In addition to air conditioner and cooling system services, the staff repairs brakes and performs tune-ups and oil changes.

"When a car comes in for a basic oil change, the entire car gets looked over and part of the overall service includes putting air in the tires, checking all the fluids, checking the windshield-wiper blades, checking the brakes and performing flushes," says Dickens.

The flushes they may perform include a brake flush, a differential flush, a cooling flush, or a power-steering flush. They offer intake services (also known as fuel injection services) as well.


Alvarez does not currently sell preventive maintenance as such. However, he is quick to note that he and his technicians advise customers on proper vehicle maintenance, and they are not shy about explaining the mechanics of that maintenance.

Once individuals know what type of services their cars need, adds Dickens, it is ultimately up to those individuals to decide which procedures they want performed on their vehicle.

Preventive maintenance: Keeping a cabin air filter clean stops problems at the source

Mike Alvarez, general manager of Martino Tire Co. of Kendall Falls, Fla., emphasizes the importance of checking the cabin air filter on a regular basis. The filters are designed to catch and trap pollen and dust that is inside the vehicle. Eventually they become clogged, however, which can start a chain reaction of vehicle-damaging events.

The clogged filter limits the amount of air going through the blower. As a result, the air conditioner will not blow as strongly as it could if the filter is clean.

When not enough air gets through to the evaporator, the system will start freezing up, and as it freezes it will begin to rot, says Alvarez. "This will cause premature Freon leaks through the evaporator, which will ultimately cause damage to other components of the vehicle."

Best Practices Tips: Cooling system inspection

When reviewing a cooling system, Mike Alvarez, general manager of Martino Tire Co. of Kendall Falls, Fla., suggests the following:

1. Make certain that the antifreeze's pH level is "up-to-peak." If the pH level is too acidic, it will corrode the system.

2. Inspect the radiator, including the cap's seal, for irregularities. Make sure the radiator is circulating properly and that its fans are operating when they are supposed to. Examine the radiator cap's seal to make certain it does not leak when pressure builds up. Don't forget to check the thermostat.

3. Check all hoses. "Make sure there are no stains on the inlets or outlets of the hoses, and make sure that there's no calcium buildup," he says. "If there's calcium buildup on them, that's telling you there's a leak and that something's not fluctuating properly."

In general, Alvarez recommends checking a vehicle's cooling system every 30,000 miles.