Beat the heat with some automotive basics to keep you on the road, or safe after a breakdown

Motorists across Minnesota are facing the first heat wave of the summer this week. Here are tips from Rochester area auto repair experts on how to get ahead of problems.

A Tilson's mechanic specialist works under the hood of a vehicle to repair their A/C coolant on June 20, 2022 in Rochester.
Theodore Tollefson / Post Bulletin

Rochester – No one wants to have their day interrupted on the road with their vehicle breaking down, but it never hurts to be prepared.

Breakdown preparation is being recommended to motorists across Minnesota and in Rochester as the first heat wave of the summer hits the state.

Recommendations are coming from all outlets of the auto repair industry as many are experiencing a backlog in appointments and may not be able to get to common repair needs as early as people would like.

Ben Tilson Jr., one of three Tilson’s that are a part of their auto shop ownership, spoke on air-conditioning maintenance being the most common repair need coming into Tilson’s this month.

“A lot of times what happens this time of year is AC compressors, they can seize up over the winter and there's a clutch that engages and it can seize up after not being used. Or their Freon has leaked out. Maybe the A/C was low on Freon from the summer before, so make sure you're not waiting for the first 80-degree day to get it fixed,” said Tilson Jr.


Waiting until the last minute for A/C repair is a large reason why Tilson’s and many other auto repair shops are backlogged on availability for repair times.

For those who are not in a dire situation to get their A/C fixed immediately, there are a few things motorists can do for their vehicles without having to bring it to the repair shop.

For starters, filling up tires with air and making sure that the PSI levels do not fill to the maximum amount. “Each vehicle has a recommended amount of air they should set their tire PSI levels at. Most people assume they should fill to the max like their tire says, but there is a recommended safe level listed on the inside of the drivers door that gives the correct level,” said Tilson Jr.

Even with high gas prices everywhere, Tilson Jr. recommends keeping spare gas in vehicles as an essential in case of a breakdown. Another suggestion of what motorists can do without a trip to the mechanic is filling up on motor oil before making longer trips than their typical daily commute.

“Play it broad when you're taking care of your car maintenance. A lot of it's just crossing your T's, dotting your I’s with your car to make sure you have all your bases crossed, because heat can do a lot of crazy things to a car and it's why we get busier when it gets hot,” said Tilson Jr.

Crossing T’s and dotting I’s in vehicle maintenance can always keep motorists ahead of possible breakdown. But if a breakdown eventually occurs, motorists will still need to keep in mind what they need to do to get their vehicle off the side of the road.

Vehicle Emergency Kit
Tire jack, extra water, motor oil and a first aid kit are just a few of many items auto repair experts recommend everyone to have in their vehicle in case of a breakdown. Items photographed Monday, June 20, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

John Chesney, director of operations for Virgil’s Auto Repair and Towing, said motorists should know the basics when it comes to getting their vehicle off the road.

“After getting somewhere safe, get in touch with a facility nearby who can assist. If you have tow coverage, you'd call AAA or an insurance provider, and they would find you a towing company that works with your insurance. Just be able to provide your information when you do call a towing company so they can help identify vehicles when they arrive,” said Chesney.


Once the vehicle is removed from the road, the waiting period of its repair time and return to owners can differentiate based on the towing company and auto repair shop it is brought to. In the case of Virgil’s being both a towing and repair shop, their customers experience less of a wait time than other locations as Chesney explained.

“Usually in a smaller repair shop like ours, we work on all makes and models and give priority service for out-of-towners, or people that have broken down on the side of the road. We try to get those on the same day or very next day of the breakdown just because of the convenience factor,” said Chesney.

All factors considered, both Tilson Jr. and Chesney recommend motorists always have their vehicles stocked with emergency kit supplies. Supplies that Tilson Jr. and Chesney both recommended include water, jumper cables, a tire jack, flashlight, motor oil, a first aid kit, and reflector vests.

A/C repair machines at Tilson's, one of the right, which is used on newer vehicles from 2015 to today, while the other specializes on vehicles 2014 and older on June 20, 2022 in Rochester.
Theodore Tollefson / Post Bulletin

Theodore Tollefson is a business reporter for the Post Bulletin. He is originally from Burnsville, Minn., and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a bachelor's degree in journalism in December 2020. Readers can reach Theodore at 507-281-7420 or
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