Spring into Vehicle Maintenance

by Kerry Blake

in Maintenance

Post image for Spring into Vehicle Maintenance

Although owners tend to place an emphasis on prepping their vehicles for winter, an after-winter maintenance routine is just as important. In fact, a lack of springtime auto care is a big reason why used car sales spike and so many cars break down on the side of the road during those earliest days of the season.

With that in mind, here are the items that all vehicle owners should consider as winter fades into spring.

Car Wash and Detailing

Spring-cleaning a home is a tradition, and spring-cleaning cars should be one too. It’s a good idea to perform this cleaning inside and out before moving onto the other items in this list. Vehicle owners can do it themselves or take it to a professional. Clean it thoroughly, polish it and detail it. Then give the vehicle a comprehensive once-over looking for anything out of the ordinary. Deal with anybody wear immediately, particularly in areas where the air is salty.

Underbody

Clean the vehicle’s underside as well, and most professional car washes offer this service. Many vehicle owners overlook this aspect, but that salt does accumulate and can cause damage fast in the right scenarios. Also, the risk to vehicle undersides isn’t limited to the coast and other salty environments because salt is used to melt snow and ice and introduced to the vehicle’s underside that way.

Brakes

For the average driver, winter is the period that he or she is hardest on the vehicle’s brakes. Traffic is slow, the weather is bad and precipitation is often accumulated on the ground. If the brakes have not been serviced in a while, then the start of spring is a great time to get that done. Even if the brakes are relatively new, listen, look and observe to ensure that they are still performing in adequate fashion.

Fluids

Winter causes a vehicle to work harder and thus lose fluids faster, so verifying fluid levels should be a first order of business. Inspect the oil, transmission fluid, engine coolant, battery reservoir, if applicable, and windshield washer reservoir. Check oil when the motor is cool, coolant while the motor is still warm and automatic and manual transmission fluid while the motor is still running. This is also a good time to replace the oil and oil filter.

Air Conditioner

Another “fluid” — actually a gas — that needs checking at the start of spring is the refrigerant in the vehicle’s AC system. This should not be handled by an amateur. Instead, take it to a professional who can ensure proper pressure and refrigerant level. Many drivers never bother with their AC system until a problem arises, but a seasonal checkup often staves off big expenses down the line.

Coolant System

Checking the radiator coolant was already mentioned in the fluids section, but it’s important to verify that the entire coolant system is in good shape and ready for the heat. All vehicle owners should know the basics of maintaining their cooling system. After checking the fluid level, inspect the condition and fit of all belts, hoses and clamps. Immediately replace or repair any signs of wear and tear. Being proactive now will save money later.

Tire Pressure

Due to low temperatures and temperature fluctuations, maintaining proper tire pressure during the winter can be a challenge and often requires frequent monitoring. Fortunately, spring and summer are not nearly as difficult, but drivers do need to be careful during the transition period. Pressure will expand when the tire is warm, and if the tire has been overfilled due to cold temperatures, the warmed tire may now have a pressure level that decreases handling and increases wear and tear.

Tire Rotation

Many drivers live in areas where winter tires are necessary; in that case, the seasonal tire swap is a necessity and will likely be performed prior to the onset of spring. For drivers who use the same set of tires, a seasonal rotation is the best way to extend tread life, maintain ideal handling and maintain optimal fuel performance. Most drivers will need to rotate their tires every six months or so, and the start of spring and fall are good options for that.

Windshield Wiper Blades

Wiper blades take a lot of abuse during the winter because they push around heavier substances like snow and ice. Check for wear, brittleness, cracks, splits, tears and so forth. Replace them at any sign of damage, or simply replace them at the start of every spring and fall. Keep in mind that blade replacement is often free or a nominal add-on when a vehicle is in the shop for oil changes, tire rotation, AC inspections and so on.

If you ask yourself, should you repair it or sell it, you might read this article on MotorCartel.

Photo credit: Labadie GM Service Center via photopin (license)

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