After a long, cold winter, spring is finally in the air. That means it’s time to get ready for sunshine and road trips. But before you hop in your car and take to the open road — or even just resume your normal driving habits — you’ll want to give your vehicle a little TLC.
Just as you change out your wardrobe each time the seasons change, your car has different needs as the weather changes. Following a spring maintenance checklist is a good way to make sure your car is ready for the warmer weather and ensure that it hasn’t suffered any damage from that cold Ohio winter.
Winter can do more harm to your car than you realize. Potholes caused by the ground expanding and contracting because of frozen rain and snow start appearing in the winter and continue into the spring. They can vary greatly in size, but they’re notoriously bad for your tires and your alignment. That’s not the only hazard of winter; the salt and sand that’s used to keep drivers safe on icy roads can be corrosive to the seals on your undercarriage and lead to problems with your suspension.
Getting ahead of any potential problems is your best bet for staying safe this spring or summer, so here’s a car tune-up checklist to make sure your car is in tip-top condition as the seasons change.
Tires and rims. If you’ve ever hit a pothole, you’ll know it can really do a number on your tires and rims. From bent rims to a hole in your tire, many of the effects are immediate, but it’s possible to have minor damage that you haven’t noticed. This is a great time to get your rims inspected and also to swap out your winter tires for spring and summer tires. When you make that change, have those winter tires inspected for tread wear, cracking or other signs of damage.
Windshield wipers. Windshield wiper blades are easily overlooked — until you need them most. Ice, rain, snow and freezing temperatures all take a toll on wiper blades, and since they’re critical to being able to see the road clearly, make sure they’re ready for spring showers. Have your blades checked and replaced so you can see the road (and whatever is on it) in front of you clearly.
Brakes and shocks. Obviously, brakes are an important part of your driving experience. In the winter, they might have gotten a workout in stop-and-go driving conditions. Drivers tend to “ride” their brakes a little more during winter conditions to reduce sliding, and brakes also can experience wear and tear from the de-icers and road salt used during winter. Have your brakes checked thoroughly, and also have your shocks and struts checked, as worn shocks will make a big difference in how well your car is able to brake.
Battery. Cold winters are notoriously hard on batteries, but so is the summer heat. Make sure yours is ready for the warmer weather ahead by having your mechanic check the condition of your battery. A battery can generally last five to seven years before needing replaced, but this varies based on how often you drive your car.
Car filters. A clean air filter makes a big difference in how well your engine performs. In addition to the engine filter, however, your car has a cabin filter that affects the quality of the air inside your car and also can affect your vehicle’s defrosting and cooling system. While often overlooked, it can make a significant difference in your comfort, so make sure this one is on the list.
Engine fluids. This is the perfect time to have your vehicle’s fluids checked and/or changed. The engine oil, power steering fluid, brake and transmission fluids, windshield washer solvent and the antifreeze/coolant should all be checked. Making sure you have the right amount of coolant can keep your car from overheating as the weather gets warmer. It’s also a good idea to change your oil every time the season changes to ensure your car will run at peak efficiency. That’s especially true for older vehicles, so let your mechanic advise you on whether or not an oil change is due.
Hoses and belts. Harsh weather can affect the life of your car’s hoses and belts, so even if they got you through the winter, it doesn’t mean they’re ready to go the distance this spring. Have hoses and belts checked for cracks, leaks, fraying and stretching.
Keeping Your Car in Shape For Spring
In addition to having your mechanic check under the hood (and under the car), there are several do-it-yourself tasks you’ll want to put on your spring maintenance checklist:
- Give it a good washing. As we’ve already mentioned, all that de-icing solvent and road salt wreaks havoc on a vehicle’s undercarriage, and it doesn’t do any favors for your paint job, either. Wash your car thoroughly, including the tires and wheels, and make sure you’ve rinsed away any residue of winter and whatever it brought with it. Finish it up with a nice waxing to help protect the paint.
- Look for damage. While you’re washing your car, look for any chips or small scratches in the paint. Use a little bit of clear nail polish to seal it and keep it from becoming bigger.
- Clean out the glove compartment. If your glove compartment is starting to look like an overflowing recycling bin, it’s time to clear it out and get it ready for spring. Spoiler alert: You don’t need all those sporks and napkins you collected from the drive-thrus all winter long. Keep just what’s essential, such as your proof of insurance and registration, a tire pressure gauge and the owner’s manual.
- Check your emergency kit. If you keep water as part of your emergency kit (and hopefully you do!), this is a good time to swap it out for fresh water. Also, change out your winter emergency items; trade in that extra coat and gloves for a rain jacket and make sure the batteries in your flashlight are in good working condition. You can probably put the sand/kitty litter back in the garage until next winter.
Spring Tune-ups = Spring Safety
With your car ready for spring, you’re also ready for safety. Knowing that your vehicle is in good driving condition, from the wiper blades to the brakes, gives you more than peace of mind. It also gives you a great reason to hit the road for your summer vacation.