Springtime, finally. The sun is warm again, the flowers are starting bloom, and the foliage is beginning to return. After such an especially bad winter for those in the Midwest and Northeast, springtime can’t arrive too soon. But what about your car? Much like adapting your wardrobe to account for the changing seasons, how you care for your car changes throughout the year as well. Snow tires and salty roads make way for sunny days and road trips. Having a car that functions properly as well as looks nice is important, and as soon as the snow melts, it’s time to get your car ready for warmer weather.
Wheels and Tires
Ice, snow, and poor road conditions during winter can easily knock your car out of alignment, causing it to handle poorly and your tires to wear out prematurely. If you notice your car pulls to one side when the steering wheel is centered, then it’s time to visit an alignment shop.
Although you should do this several times a year (with every oil change), checking the tire tread is a quick way to gauge the condition of your suspension and steering. Place a penny in the tread at several places on each tire (with Lincoln’s head facing down). If the tread doesn’t cover any of his head, it’s time for new tires. Don’t forget to check the spare, too.
Dress your tires with a tire gloss after a thorough washing. This will not only make them look nice but will protect them against ultraviolet light and moisture, which can cause cracking, browning and eventual rotting.
Battery and Electrical
A season of very cold starts and quick trips can easily sap the strength of a car’s battery and deteriorate its ability to crank the starter. If it takes a little longer than a couple of seconds for your car to start or your battery is over four years old, it is time to consider a new one. You local auto parts store can test it to help determine its condition.
At dusk, turn on all of the exterior lights and take a visual inspection of their condition. Replace any burned out bulbs and any cracked lenses. Verify that your wipers work properly and wiper fluid is topped off.
Check the Vital Fluids
Oil, brake, coolant, and steering fluids are all essential to keeping your car running smoothly and safely. Odds are good these areas were neglected during the winter and will need attention soon.
The oil and coolant level are most important, as they help keep your car adequately cooled; if they’re low, you run the risk of damaging your engine, which might lead to expensive repairs. Have them changed regularly. Check the owner’s manual for a checklist of maintenance schedules for your car. As well, if you do it yourself, adhere to the precautions when opening the various reservoirs, as the coolant can be under pressure if hot.
In some parts of the country, the harsh winter months will take a toll on a car’s exterior, especially since it rarely gets washed during those months. When dirt and debris accumulate on the paint, swirl marks and scratches can ruin a paint job if left untreated. The salts used to melt the snow and ice can also damage the paint and leave your windshield cloudy, which can be dangerous.
Wash your car with a car-specific soap in the shade and pay particular attention to the undercarriage, where salt accumulates and will eventually corrode the metal if left. Waxing and polishing are an option, but the extra effort will have big rewards in the long run, helping to preserve and protect your paint for years if done regularly.
Life gets busy, and there isn’t a whole lot of time to clean out your car, especially in the snow. However, a lighter car is a more efficient one, and the less stuff it carries around, the better the gas mileage and the less wear and tear it will suffer. Clean out everything, leaving only what’s important for everyday driving.
As summer approaches, the intensity of the sun increases, which can cause damage to interior surfaces. If you have leather upholstery, use a conditioner to avoid any cracking or fading. Exposure to sunlight can quickly fade cloth and damage plastic, so care should be taken to protect those areas with a sunshade or even a car cover.
Don’t forget, springtime equals pollen, and pollen equals allergies for most people. A dirty, dusty interior can worsen your allergies and impair your driving. Changing your car’s air filters regularly as well as vacuuming and dusting will help keep excess pollen at bay.
Enjoy the Ride
With a clean and well performing car, it will enjoy a longer life, and your springtime road trips will be allergy free.