Out-of-service air pumps have had some Hillsdale residents hopping from one gas station to the next, as snow piles up and temperatures fluctuate.
Air pump companies are being overwhelmed with service requests, as many machines at northern U.S. gas stations break during the winter months.
“We’ve received an increase in calls,” said Allen Medford, owner of Rhino Air Inc., a national air pump manufacturer that services the air pumps at the Marathon Gas station at 185 W. Carleton Road. “That happens at this time of year.”
In Hillsdale, several gas stations have had to post out-of-service signs on their air pumps in recent weeks.
Both of Marathon’s air pumps were out of order as of Tuesday. Manager Abrahim Alarshi told The Collegian that he had called for service on Friday and again on Sunday, but Rhino Air still had not fixed the pumps because service is so in demand.
“They’re really fast usually,” Alarshi said. “They said, ‘Oh, we’re so busy right now.’ I still don’t know when they’ll come out.”
Admiral Petroleum Co.’s air pump at 69 W. Carleton Road was also out of order on Tuesday. An Admiral employee told The Collegian that someone took the electrical poll that feeds the pump on Friday. The employee, however, added that the pump does not work well in temperatures under 30 degrees.
Mike Parney, owner of Parney’s Car Care & Tire, said the moisture in the air freezes in cold temperatures, which blocks the air pump hoses.
Medford said his air pumps have a heater to keep them 150 degrees inside. When someone using an air pump does not hang up its hose properly and its nozzle rests in the snow, then the nozzle has a greater chance of freezing.
“What happens to your body if you lie out in negative 20 degrees?” Medford said. “It’s not good. The same is true for the hose.”
After freezing, customers may try to knock the nozzle against something to break the ice, according to Medford.
“That just breaks it,” he said.
When that happens, gas stations call companies such as Rhino Air to fix the pumps. It happens in many places north of I-70, according to Medford.
To make things more challenging, fluctuations in temperatures cause air in tires to expand and contract. As temperatures vary from above freezing to low single digits, more people have to add air to their tires.
Tires also corrode from the cold weather and salt, sometimes causing a bead leak between the tire and rim.
“There’s not a lot you can do,” Parney said. “That’s winter. Come summer, that problems will slow way down.
Medford said customers should follow the instructions to properly wrap the air pump hoses back up when they finish using them so the next customer can use it, too. If they find an air pump’s nozzle is frozen, he recommended putting it in the car for a few minutes or in the exhaust pipe to warm up.
Some vehicle repair shops in town also have air pumps inside to avoid their hoses from freezing. Some, such as Parney’s, offer the service for free, though it is only available during business hours.
“The pumps are a hassle when they’re outside,” Parney said.