While wintertime is often viewed as the toughest season for vehicle maintenance, it is estimated that over 9 million motorists require roadside assistance during the warmer months.
Getting in the habit of spring cleaning may help you avoid some major roadside headaches and expensive repairs. Here are some ways you can take care of your car in the spring:
- Test the battery. Winter can take a toll on your car's starter and alternator, so get them checked out once the cold weather has passed. Indications of a weak battery may be dimming interior and exterior lights or power windows that move slower than usual. Since the battery works harder in the winter, it can get drained; if your battery is old or weak, testing and replacing it now can be less expensive than getting towed later.
- Check the brakes. Icy winter conditions, road salt, and sand can wear down your brakes and cause corrosion. Look for winter damage, especially if you hear any grinding or squeaking as you drive. Inspect the entire brake system, including hoses, lines, pads, the parking brake, and brake fluid. Nothing is more crucial to your safety than properly working brakes, so get them checked out.
- Change the oil. Warm weather can cause engine oil to thin. Some car manufacturers suggest switching to a heavier (higher-viscosity) oil during the warmer months to help the engine perform more smoothly and efficiently. Check your owner's manual for the recommended viscosity level.
- Inspect the tires. Cold temperatures can decrease tire pressure and winter conditions can wear-down the treads. Make sure that all of your tires–including the spare tire–are properly inflated. Refer to the owner's manual for the recommended tire pressure and check the tread levels. To check the treads, try this coin test: Insert a quarter into a few grooves across the tread of each tire. If George Washington's head is partially covered, you are most likely safe to drive. If it's not, replace the tires.
- Replace the filters. Your vehicle's air filter should be changed on a regular basis to prevent debris and dust from getting to the engine. It will also help enhance engine performance so your car uses gas more efficiently.
- Wash the underbody. Winter weather exposes your car to salt, sand, snow, and ice. Aside from giving your car a good scrub, check for any debris that may have accumulated or corrosion that may have occurred. Take a good look at your car's underside for any rust or other damage. The sooner these issues are tended to, the more money it can save you in the long run.
- Tidy up the interior. Take this opportunity to de-clutter and clean out your vehicle. A good spring cleaning will revive your car's appearance. Prepare the interior surfaces, such as leather or upholstery, for increased sun exposure to avoid cracking or fading. Just be sure to keep an emergency kit stowed (jumper cables, extra food and water, first-aid kit, etc.) no matter what the season.
These simple spring car-care tips can help keep your car in tip-top shape and save you expensive repairs in the process.
What to Do Now
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