Winter is the harshest time of the year for pretty much everything, but especially cars! This is doubly true for vehicle owners who live within the snow belt. Corrosive road salt, loose stones, and road debris from snow plows, traction sand, and repeated freezing and thawing can wreak havoc on your car’s exterior, and leave your second largest investment looking like a jalopy. These severe aspects of winter driving can also put a strain on the moving parts of your car.
So, to help you get your vehicle ready for hitting the open road with the windows (and maybe even the top) down, we came up with 8 areas that should be checked once spring’s warmer weather hits.
- Check Your Alignment, Tire Pressure and Brakes – Potholes and other less-than-optimal driving conditions can throw your wheels out of alignment, putting more wear and tear on your tires. If your vehicle displays any signs of veering off to one side, you should have your alignment checked and readjusted as soon as possible. In addition, check tire pressure against the recommended pressure for your vehicle and particular type of tire. The change in temperature can cause changes in air pressure within your tires. The change of seasons is a great time to check your brakes because they generally lose performance slowly over a long period of time, so we might not notice that they are not functioning properly until they get into the danger zone.
- Replace the Air Filter – Replacing a clogged air filter can increase a vehicle’s life expectancy and fuel efficiency by reducing strain on the engine, especially heading into the warmer months of spring. During the winter, snow-related debris and other impurities may build up in a vehicle’s air filtration system, and replacing the air filter can improve acceleration time by around 6-11%, according to fueleconomy.gov.
- Change the Oil and Top-off All Fluids – A typical driver generally changes the oil every 3 or 4 months, which corresponds perfectly with the change in seasons. However, during the winter months, cold weather puts extra strain on the engine as it must contend with more viscous motor oil. Once spring gets here, we advise an oil change to flush out the old oil and make sure all fluids are property topped-off – especially the coolant in the radiator. Proper fluid levels are critical for your vehicle’s best performance.
- Check Wiper Blades – Although people use their wiper blades often, their maintenance is something that is easily forgotten. Once winter is gone, you should check your current wiper blades for cracks, dry-rotting or excessive wear. If they look shabby, they’ll do a shabby job of clearing your windshield. That’s definitely something you don’t want heading into spring (April Showers, anyone?). Don’t forget the rear wiper blade if you have one! A good rule-of-thumb for the replacement of wiper blades is every six months to ensure the best possible clearing of your windshield.
- Check Your Battery – Winter weather can cause problems for your battery’s connections, so you will want to check posts and connections to make sure they are free from any dirt, grime, or corrosion. If the posts are dirty, remove the cables (negative cable first) and clean each of them thoroughly. If you don’t know how to properly clean them, check out this article. In addition, you should know your battery’s power level and the charge it is holding. If you don’t have the tools to do this, many auto parts stores will check your battery for free.
- Wash and Wax Your Car – Salt, sand, and debris from winter driving can damage your vehicle’s exterior, so wash it thoroughly as soon as temperatures rise and stay above freezing. Be sure to clean the underside of your vehicle, as well. That is where corrosive elements can do the most damage – even though you might never see it. Spring is also a good time to check your entire vehicle for rust, which can worsen during the winter months. So, in early April, give your car a good wax. Spring rains will roll right off and your vehicle will be much easier to clean the next time you decide to wash it.
- Touch-Up the Paint – You might have spent much of the last few months with your vehicle covered with snow, dirt or road grime, but salt, stones and even ice scrapers can cause damage that lies just below the surface grime. After you wash your vehicle, check for chips, scratches, or blemishes that need a paint touch-up. Buy a small amount of matching vehicle paint to do it yourself, or consult your local body shop.
- Detail the Interior – Your floor mats and carpets have probably seen better days after winter debris has been constantly tracked into your vehicle. If you have special all-weather floor mats, a simple hosing off will do wonders. If your floor mats are carpeted, vacuum them and clean any stains. With the floor mats out of the car, vacuum the interior carpets and around the various cracks and crevices of your vehicle’s floor. Use a vinyl/leather protector, like Armor-All, to brighten up dashes and trim that may have suffered during the cold weather.
Once you get your ride all spic and span, you’ll be ready to enjoy the warm weather while driving your well-maintained vehicle. Do you have any other Spring Cleaning Tips you’d like to share? Let us know down in the comments section below – we always love your feedback!
*image courtesy of hezoos on flickr.com