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Towing business warms up as winter freezes over PDF Print E-mail
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Written by JOE POIRIER   
Wednesday, 10 January 2018 16:48

Local tow-truck drivers are working overtime as below-zero temperatures take their toll on batteries, tires and diesel engines

    As miserable as the weather has been this winter, it’s been remarkably good for local towing companies that are working overtime to help stranded motorists
    “We usually get 10 to 15 towing calls on an average day, but with the cold temperatures, we’re answering about 100 calls,” Paul Krauska, owner of Eddie’s Service in Saukville, said. “I’m running about a three-hour ETA right now.”
    Krauska said most of his service calls are for flat tires caused by potholes or low tire pressure from the frigid temperature.
    “The big thing is tires. We must have done about 10 or 11 tire repairs this morning,” Krauska said last week. “If they hit a pothole or curb, the tires could bust or pop right off the rim. We’re going out to tow cars, not necessarily for accidents — it’s the cold.
    “A lot of the problems start with people buying cheap and off-brand tires. The side walls aren’t as strong, and that’s when they run into an issue if they hit a bump.”
    Krauska said he’s also received a number of calls related to dead car batteries drained by the cold. Many motorists could avoid hearing their engine starter’s death rattle if they took the time to do some preventative maintenance.
    “A lot of people don’t spend much time thinking about their car. They’re not planning ahead because they just want to get in their car and go to work,” Krauska said. “People are going to places where they do quick oil changes, and they don’t check the health and life of their battery because they don’t have the equipment and capability to do that. We always hear, ‘I just got my oil changed and now my car won’t start.’”
    Krauska said he’s been busy ordering more car batteries to re-supply his stock after he sold about 150 last week.
    It isn’t just small vehicles that are being sidelined by the cold. In Belgium, Lanser Garage & Towing is hauling semi trucks, tractors and even airplanes.  
    “Our call volume can go up 200% or 300% when you get a cold snap with ice or snow. We’re running constantly to calls 24/7,” Jamon Ingelse, whose family owns the business, said. “We specialize in the big and heavy, but we do anything from bicycles to train derailments and plane crashes. That’s what we pride ourselves in — the odd and the different.”
    Ingelse said most of his recent calls have been for trucks that won’t start because the temperature can cause the diesel fuel to gel.
    “With our market, we’re seeing a lot of trucks that aren’t starting because the diesel freezes and it will start to gel up,” he said. “The majority of our business is semi no-starts and gel-ups. We don’t do a lot of tire work, but we’ll take the cars to a service shop.”
    Last week, Ingelse had to put on a wetsuit to pull a tractor out of a pond that was being used as an ice skating rink.  
    “We had to use our off-road machine because it was in an inaccessible location,” he said. “Then we chainsawed the ice and pulled the John Deere out.”
    In the past, Ingelse has had the opportunity to tow other vehicles that don’t rely on wheels to get around.
    “We average about one airplane a year, but I can remember one winter-related recovery. There was a snowstorm that came in and it flipped the plane upside down,” he said.
    Krauska and Ingelse are also busy making sure their trucks don’t succumb to the weather.
    “Nothing is more embarrassing than going to the scene of an accident and then your truck breaks down,” Krauska said. “Every 10 days you have to anticipate something is going to go wrong with one of them because it’s so cold, like the cables, hydraulics, or a tire going flat. Even the professionals have to be on the lookout.”

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