The Arctic blast that brought sub-zero temperatures to the York area has kept automobile mechanics busy and motorists frustrated by weather-induced behaviors that include thumping, blinking and dying.
Cars are made of numerous temperature-sensitive components, including batteries and rubber parts such as hoses and belts that shrink and strain in extremely cold weather, said Paul Ankers, who owns and operates Ankers Garage on Mount Rose Avenue in Spring Garden Township.
He said he spent at least the first four hours of his workday Tuesday on the phone with customers.
"We got a lot of dead batteries," he said. "We had one that didn't have enough antifreeze in it so the engine froze up, and I need to bring it into the shop to thaw it out."
There were also a lot of cars that wouldn't start, a situation Ankers said he believes was caused by both the cold and another factor: finances.
"The cold just stresses everything out," he said. "But with the down economy, you can tell people haven't been investing in their cars. Any car that's marginal, if someone procrastinated getting something done, will suffer in any extreme."
Older cars should be able to withstand cold if they've been properly maintained, he said.
Tire problems: But even newer autos can do some puzzling things when temperatures drop as low as they did Monday night, said Ankers, who had a confounding moment with his own vehicle on the way to work Tuesday morning.
"It felt like I had a flat spot in my tire ... and I could feel it thumping and I went and got out to make sure I didn't have a flat," he said.
The thumping eventually stopped, and Ankers determined the cause was a tire that, after sitting on the subzero ground all night, had frozen into the shape of its overnight position, he said.
Another common newer-car cold-weather phenomenon is indicator lights blinking or staying illuminated to suggest a tire pressure problem, Ankers said.
That's because the tire pressure decreases as the cold causes the air to contract, the mechanic said. But people should avoid obeying the light and adding air because as soon as the tire gets warm again, it will be overinflated, he said.
Mark Foreman, a 57-year-old Dover Township resident, said he experienced both the thumping and the tire pressure indicator in the brand new Fiat he's renting.
Foreman has spent the cold snap working in Kansas City as a contractor on a federal contract, he said, and the temperature there dipped to minus 15 Monday.
"Me and at least another guy noticed we were feeling these little bumps where there were flat spots where the tire kind of froze to the ground," he said.
Other problems: Dover resident Dave Johnson, 38, said his brake lines were apparently frozen Tuesday morning as he tried to back out of his driveway in his 2011 Mitsubishi SUV that had been sitting outside all night.
He tried to brake but couldn't, and "I had to push very hard just to get it to stop," he said.
He put the car in park and aimed the heat on the floor and, after another 15 minutes, the brakes were working normally, he said.
"That was the first time it ever happened," he said. "It was also very windy and I think that wind helped (to freeze the brake lines)."
Retired Lower Windsor Township police chief Dave Sterner said his wife's 1998 Lincoln Continental "went crazy" Monday night when his wife started it to drive home from work.
When she started the car, the indicator lights on the dashboard "went haywire and lit up," and the steering didn't work properly, he said.
"It kind of made her nervous," Sterner said. "She turned it off and restarted it and the lights came on again but everything worked."
Sterner said he thinks the computer chip in the car was affected by the extreme cold.
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.