Towing through the cold

Lisa Ingebrand, Wade Young - Life/Enterprise/Messenger

Who do you call when you need to get to work and your car won't start on a blustery below-zero morning? The local towing company.

Gene Mach, owner of Bud's Service in Kilkenny, reported receiving more than 100 calls during the four-day frigid winter vortex that closed schools, stopped the mail, and sent Minnesota into the minus 30 degree fahrenheit range, Monday, January 28 through Thursday, January 31.

About eighty percent of the calls were for cars that wouldn't start. Mach and his crew also responded to stalls, flat tires, and requests for tows.

"Yeah, we're out there when pretty much no one else is. Even the mail stopped," Mach stated with a chuckle. "We're running a little crazy, but it's been fun. After the first 10 hours or so out in it, you don't even notice it anymore."

Tom Murray, owner of Tom Murray’s Highway Motors Inc., said he also had some jumpstarts, but mostly worked on semi-trucks whose fuel had gelled in the arctic temperatures.

“In the last three days, I’ve worked on at least 15,” he said. “The worst night was Tuesday. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. The cold even went through my Carhartts.”

Most of the time, Mach arrives to find flooded-out vehicles, bad batteries or old batteries that just can't take the cold.

As temperatures started to rise Thursday afternoon, the Bud's Service crew stayed busy responding to tow requests from the night before.

"We haven't had it this cold since '94. The same thing went on then. Stuff froze up, furnaces and heaters couldn't keep up," stated Mach, who has been in the towing business for 45 years. "Cars have gotten more reliable as far as starting, but batteries get old, spark plugs aren't maintained, and lots of people don't pay attention to the kind of fuel they're using — a lot of the 85 stuff won't start when it's this cold."

His experiences have taught him to dress for the weather and to adhere to his own rule

. "If you can't see, you don't go. I follow that rule. If I can't see across the street, I won't go out. It's not safe for anyone," he stated.

Mach and Murray extend their concern for safety to many of the people they help during jumpstarts and tows.

"If there's an older person going somewhere, I usually ask them, 'Do you have to go today? If you don't have to, don't go.' Around here, you're going to be going from town to town and there are pretty wide stretches where no ones around—especially in bad weather," he stated. "Stalling out or getting stuck in a ditch in these temps is just plain dangerous."

Murray said he stops and helps people if he sees they’re having issues on the side of the road.

“I kind of love being out there helping people. If I’m between jobs and see someone, I will stop and take them to safety. I’ve given rides to several people this week. One was an elderly woman.”


Murray said during the winter, people can do some things to make sure their vehicle starts. Keep your car in the garage. If your car has a block heater, plug it in. For semi drivers, he noted to start the vehicle the night before, use a winter-weight oil (10W-30), keep it running, and add an additive when you fill up.


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