Even if you’re ready for spring, your car probably isn’t.
Before winter hits, many people get the oil changed, tires checked and other pre-winter maintenance completed. But winter takes a heavy toll on cars, often causing hidden damage that can be costly or dangerous.
Now is the time to make sure your car is road-ready for spring. Here are some must-do checks that car experts recommend so you can drive safely into the season.
1. Take your car for a tire check
Almost all cars in the U.S. are fitted with all-season tires. While these tires are safe and reliable in most climates, they aren’t as flexible as traditional snow tires. All-season tires stiffen in the cold, especially when temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. That can cause cracks and other damage.
You can take your car to many national auto service retailers for a free tire inspection. While you’re there, have your tires rotated and the air pressure checked. Doing these things will make the tires last longer and ensure they’ll grip on rain-slicked roads.
2. Replace your wiper blades
Anyone who has had a windshield wiper peel off during a heavy spring rain knows that the icy cold of winter can be hard on blades. Even if your blades look OK, replace them if they start to leave streaks on your windshield.
An auto technician can change them, or you can easily replace them yourself. Just check the owner’s manual for your car to find the correct size.
3. Ensure your car’s brakes are checked
Do you hear a grinding sound when you step on the brakes? If so, the brakes may need to be replaced. Even if you don’t think there’s a problem, it’s never a bad idea to have an auto technician check them. National retailers offer free brake inspections.
4. Clean the underbody
Many of us take great pride in washing and waxing our cars so they gleam in the spring sunshine. But don’t forget to have the underbody sprayed, too. Salt builds up in crevices and hidden areas underneath, including under the bumpers.
You can spray water under your car. However, a better option is to go to an automatic car wash. Most spray the undersides of cars as they clean the topsides.
5. Change the oil
Many cars use thinner oil during the winter than in the summer. Thinner oil flows more easily during cold weather and ensures that your car starts more easily. When warmer spring weather arrives, it’s wise to have an oil change and use thicker oil.
Even if your car uses multi-viscosity oil, as many do, spring is a great time to change it. Winter is hard on engines, and the oil and filter become dirty. Changing the oil will ensure your engine performs well and lasts longer. That means less chance of a breakdown in steaming hot weather of summer.
6. Request checks of other fluids
Multiple fluids are needed for your car to function properly. Many people don’t find out that fluids are low or dirty until the fluids fail and the car is damaged. There usually aren’t many obvious warning signs. When your car is serviced, ask the technicians to check the following fluids:
- Power steering
- Windshield washer solvent
The technician should also check belts and wires. Many of those crack or become loose during the winter months, especially if rodents and other small animals crawl into engines to stay warm.
7. Check your air conditioner
Test your air conditioner by running it for about 15 minutes once a month, even in winter.
No, it won’t hurt it. In fact, it might make it last longer. Running the air conditioner ensures the system stays fresh and active. Plus, you’ll find out if the air conditioner doesn’t work before the blazing hot days of summer.
Your car technician can also check the system’s pressure readings and other elements.
8. Schedule a wheel alignment
Of course, cars hit potholes and other dips and bumps that crop up on roads during the winter. That can throw your wheels out of alignment and cause a host of problems, including stress on your car’s suspension, uneven tire wear and other potentially dangerous issues. Stop by a car care center and have your car’s tires aligned.
9. Change your cabin air filter
Does your car smell funny? Many car owners don’t know that there is an air filter in the car’s cabin. The filter is easy to locate and change yourself. NAPA gives a step-by-step guide. If you’re not handy, ask your car technician to change it.
10. Check the battery
Car owners always think batteries die during the winter. They do, of course, but they also die in summer. Many national auto care chains offer free battery testing, so you can find out whether you need a new one before the battery fails.
Are you ready for spring to come? Is your car? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.