Keep Your Car Up to Snuff After the Cold Winter Months!
Now that spring is upon us and the harsh winter is now behind us, it’s time to hit the road for some adventure and fun. For many Americans, this means family vacations, trips to the cottage, camping excursions, and weekend road trips. Whatever your style, chances are you are getting ready to hit the road, but are you confident that your car is in good enough shape to get you there safely and efficiently?
Winter’s cold temperatures and icy conditions have been hard on your car, so it is likely showing some signs of wear and tear. Spring is the perfect time to bring your car in for a full inspection to identify any minor problems, before they become major ones.
Here are some tips to keep your car running safely this spring and summer:
- Change your oil and oil filter. Changing your oil and oil filter at the intervals recommended in your vehicle’s owner’s manual is one of the best ways to keep the engine running trouble free. Neglecting to replace engine oil can result in poor engine performance, higher fuel consumption and even severe engine damage.
- Check your fluids. When you change your oil and oil filter, you should also check your fluids. Check your power steering, brake, and transmission fluids; your windshield washer fluid; and your coolant. If the levels are low, top them up, and flush/replace them as recommended in your owner’s manual. Keep in mind that your power steering, brake and coolant systems are closed, so low fluid levels may indicate a leak.
- Replace your wiper blades. If they’re torn or cracked your wiper blades won’t do you much good in the middle of unrelenting spring showers when visibility is reduced.
- Check your charging system. Cold temperatures can do a number on your battery, so now is a good time to have it tested. You should also check to make sure that your battery is securely mounted and that the connections are clean, tight, and corrosion free. If your battery is more than five years old, you should consider having it replaced.
- Fix your windshield. In cities where sand and rocks are used on icy roads, motorists often end up with chips and cracks in their windshields. Although these may not seem like a big deal, any damage to your windshield can decrease the overall effectiveness of airbags, seatbelts, roof stability, and your personal safety in the event of an accident. If your windshield has a crack, it’s important to have it repaired or replaced immediately.
- Check your lighting. Check all exterior and interior lighting to identify any problems. When your vehicle’s lighting is defective, other motorists may not get the message that you intend to stop or turn. The end result could be disastrous.
- Lubricate your chassis parts. Many newer cars are “lubed-for-life,” but some still require regular chassis lubrication so check your owner’s manual. Replacement steering and suspension components may also require periodic lubrication.
- Check your belts and hoses. Cold temperatures can harden and/or damage rubber, so it’s important to check your belts and hoses for damage. Check your hoses for hardening, softening, leaking, cracks, blistering, or other visual damage, and check your belts for looseness, cracks, frays, or glazing. If you have to replace one of your belts, you may also have to replace the tensioner and pulleys to keep the new belt from slipping.
- Check your filters. Your car has a number of filters that are important to its longevity and should be replaced regularly. Check your engine air filter, your cabin air filter, and your fuel filter for damage or clogging and replace them if necessary.
- Check your tires. Your tires are the only point of contact between you and road, so it’s important to take care of them. Check the pressure of all your tires (including the spare) monthly, and maintain the optimal pressure recommended in your owner’s manual. Check the tread for uneven or irregular wear and for cuts or bruises on the sidewalls. Rotate your tires every 10,000 kilometers, and replace them if they are worn or damaged. Even if your tire tread are OK, make sure you keep them inflated to the pressure listed on the placard visible when the driver’s door is open. You can boost your gas mileage by 3% or more and make the car safer as well. To get an accurate reading, check the pressure of tires when they are cold, not when you have been driving.
- Check the battery: You can’t get where you are going if the car won’t start. “Winter is tough on all the starting components like the starter and alternator. The battery works harder and can get drained,” says Jimmie Swims, a specialist at the auto parts chain Auto Zone. Signs of a weak battery: dimming headlights or interior lights; power windows that take longer than usual to go up and down.
- Check the brakes: Winter conditions and salt on the roads can lead to corrosion of brake parts; Auto Zone’s Swims also points out that anti-lock braking systems get an especially hard workout in winter’s slick conditions. Nothing is more crucial to your safety than your brakes, so get them checked. Trouble signs: pulling to one side when you hit the brakes, squeaking or grinding noises and a brake pedal that feels too soft.
- Test the air conditioning: Turn on the cooler full blast and make sure it reaches that max chill in short order. If you suspect problems, get a mechanic to check it out soon.
- Check your oxygen sensor: This one is obscure, but it is important to gas mileage. Because the sensor helps set the fuel mix going into your engine, a faulty one can cause too much gas to be used – cutting your mileage by up to 40%, warns auto repair web site CarMD. Replacing the sensor, which usually costs less than $200, needs to be done every 30,000 to 50,000 miles. And it is the repair problem that most often causes the “Check Engine” warning to light up near your speedometer, CarMD reports.
Make vehicle maintenance a priority this spring to protect yourself and prolong the life of your vehicle!