We set a record last month for the snowiest December in Minnesota. For a couple of days after the blizzard of Dec. 11, several people here at WCCO asked me about vibrations that seemed to be coming from the wheels of their company cars.

In all but one case, the problem was solved by blasting the snow and ice clinging to the vehicle’s wheels with a hose in our heated garage. The one car that was not helped by this procedure turned out to have a couple of broken lug studs … the bolts that hold the wheel onto the hub. These may have broken when the car hit a more-solid-than-expected snow bank.

Washing the frozen chunks from the wheels helped the other cars because it got their wheels back into balance. Look at the edge of the wheel above, under the “A” of the raised white lettering, and you will see a wheel weight. These are used to balance wheel and tire assemblies so they roll without vibration.

gordy's garage

(credit: CBS)

This closer shot shows how small wheels weights can be … they are measured in fractions of ounces. That is why a chunk of ice or frozen snow — clinging tightly to the wheel — can dramatically affect the balance of the wheel and tire combination. It is also possible to knock a wheel weight off the wheel by driving through some of the deep, hard and crusty snow “products” that results from plowing, salting, thawing and refreezing.

It might be a good idea to see how many weights are on each of your wheels now, because we just MAY get more storms before this winter ends.

Sandy came by The Garage recently with a different snowstorm-related concern. When these storms hit at rush hour (don’t they always?) traffic can move really slowly. She noticed that the “oil” warning light flashing on the dash of her 15-year-old Chevy during one of these slow motion commutes.

She pulled over and checked the oil, and it was at the proper level. What would cause the warning light? Old age. The oil pump in an older engine is not as tight and efficient as the pump in a newer engine, and the slower an engine is running, the less oil the pump is moving through the engine. When the oil pressure does not stay at a certain minimum, you will see the light.

If this happens to you while you are stopped in traffic, put the transmission in neutral and rev the engine a little … if the oil warning light goes off right away, there is probably nothing to worry about. If you see the light more than occasionally, and the oil LEVEL is correct on the dipstick, then it is time to visit a mechanic. Just don’t go during a snowstorm.

  1. Judy Spencer says:

    Recently had my car checked becaiuse oil and engine lights were on. They Replaced one 02 sensor but sincethwen my gas mileage has decreased dramatically. What could have happened. Thank you.