After months of gloomy winter weather, the sun is finally out, chasing away the last chills. Winter can be pretty rough on your car, so spring is the time to get your ride spruced up for warmer temperatures.
Here are some things you can do to help your vehicle shrug off the last of the snowflakes:
1. Clean the Undercarriage
Even if you can’t see your car’s underside, don’t ignore it.
Winter driving often leads to salt and grime buildup from wet and snowy conditions. This residue can harm your vehicle’s undercarriage if neglected. Salt can corrode the paint and metal, leading to rust that damages the underside and may, eventually, compromise safety.
Even in milder winter climates, cleaning off sand and grime from previous seasons is essential to prevent paint scratches and save on rust-related repairs.
If you have a pressure washer, you can clean the undercarriage yourself. Otherwise, opt for a car wash, though some may charge extra for undercarriage cleaning. For an extra layer of defense, apply a corrosion inhibitor spray.
2. Replace the Wiper Blades
Your wiper blades get an extra workout from snow and rain during winter. With the onset of spring showers, getting new ones might be a good idea.
The best way to know if they need replacing is by using them. Faulty wipers may smear grime or film over the windshield. Screeching noises and difficulty gliding are other signs that they need changing. A visual inspection may reveal worn or cracked rubber where the blade contacts the windshield.
The bottom line: if they don’t clear your windshield effectively, you need to get a new set.
Changing wiper blades is a reasonably easy task.
Since you’ll likely replace them yearly, learning to do it yourself can save some money.
3. Check the Tire Pressure
Subzero temperatures affect tire performance and durability. Air contracts in the cold, so if you filled your tires in the winter, make sure they’re not overinflated when the temperature rises with spring. You can find the recommended pressure on a decal in the driver-side car door or the owner’s manual.
Inspect the tire condition, looking for cuts or uneven wear across the tread. Even wear is good; uneven wear suggests issues with alignment or balance.
Also, if you were using winter tires to tackle ice and snow, you’ll likely need to swap to regular tires with the spring thaw. When temperatures stay consistently at 7°C or above, you can take your winters off.
4. Check the Battery
Winter’s cold can strain your car battery. Low temperatures slow the chemical reactions needed for cranking your engine. Extreme cold can freeze your battery and cause irreparable damage.
So if engine startup feels sluggish come spring, your battery is likely the problem. Other signs of a dying battery include dim headlights or a clicking sound when turning your ignition key. There might also be corrosion around the battery terminals.
Testing your car battery is easy and will help prevent a no-start in springtime.
5. Check Fluid Levels
Your car uses many different fluids that are vital for year-round performance.
Make sure these fluids are at the correct levels:
- Coolant: Keeps your engine running at optimum temperature
- Engine oil: Lubricates your engine parts
- Brake fluid: Essential to ensuring fully functioning brakes
- Wiper fluid: Helps keep your windshield clean
- Power steering fluid: Part of what makes turning the steering easier
- Transmission fluid: Lubricates and cools your transmission
6. Inspect Belts and Hoses
Extreme temperatures can be tough on rubber parts like radiator hoses and drive belts, making them less flexible and more prone to cracks or leaks. This can lead to coolant loss, engine overheating, or a snapped belt, leaving your vehicle undrivable.
But it’s not all bad news, as checking the health of your belts and hoses is pretty straightforward.
Examine the radiator hoses for damage or leaks, ensuring they feel firm yet pliant. Make sure to do this only when the car is cool.
Most modern cars have a single serpentine belt at the front of the engine, while older ones may have additional drive belts. Check them for cracks, fraying, or missing chunks, and listen for any screeching sounds upon starting, signaling the need for replacement.
7. Check Brake Pads
Given the wet and icy roads, your brakes may have gotten a workout over the winter. If neglected, they could pose issues as you head into spring.
When inspecting brake pads, you’ll need to assess the brake pad thickness. A good rule of thumb is to replace them if they’re thinner than 1/8″ to 3/16″. Some pads have wear indicator slots; when visible, replacement is due.
If you’re not inclined to DIY, let your trusted mechanic deal with this. While checking the brakes, they’ll inspect other components in the same area, such as tire wear, wheel bearings, suspension, and steering.
8. Give a General Lookover
Spring is the perfect time to give the rest of your car a once over. Check for leaks, strange noises, and any imperfections in the exterior. While you’re at it, make sure that all of your lights (headlights, signals, etc.) are working correctly.
It’s also the ideal time to catch up on paperwork. Make sure your registration and insurance are up to date. Note when you last had your car serviced and when it’s due for another round. To simplify things, you could have a mobile mechanic drop by to take care of maintenance.
Keeping on top of all these small tasks can save you big headaches down the road.
9. Spring Clean Your Car
The magic of spring can boost our spirits, but if your car’s inside is still a muddy mess from winter, it’s not great. Cleaning a dirty car inside after winter takes some work to make it feel fresh again.
Winter is tough on floor mats and carpets. You’ll have to let the carpet dry before cleaning the dirt. Once dry, vacuum up loose dirt and use a car carpet cleaner. Here’s a tip: use rubber floor mats in winter to stop water from ruining your carpet. They’re easier to clean, too.
Seats need extra care as they soak up rain from your clothes. While they might have long dried, they need to be treated to prevent nasty odors. Vacuum and clean fabric seats with upholstery cleaner, using minimal water. For leather seats, use specialized leather cleaning products.