Winter has ended and spring is here. With all the cold weather gone and summer around the corner, spring is the prime season to get your vehicle checkout and a little spring cleaning. As we all know winter is one of the harshest seasons for our cars between the cold weather, ice build ups, De-Icer, and the driving conditions endured. Comprised below is a maintenance checklist to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape.

Overall Cleaning

As stated before during the winter season a lot of De-Icer can build up on your vehicle. This salt is abrasive and corrosive meaning it will slowly eat away at your vehicle paint and cause rusting.

The first thing you should do is give your car a good washing to remove any salt, debris from the road, and since it’s spring any early bug splatters from your car. Get your car clean from top to bottom including the undercarriage because it’s often forgotten and it gets the most abuse from flying debris and salt from the road.

Undercarriage

Often forgotten, the undercarriage takes most of the abuse from debris on the road. “Out of sight. Out of mind” might be one of the main reasons that people often forget to inspect it. Maybe it’s not understanding why your undercarriage is important? Most of the time it’s hard to inspect it without some form of a hoist such as a car jack or a hydraulic car lift which may need a mechanic to perform.

The main reason your undercarriage is important is that is houses all your suspension, brakes, and various other components that allow the operation fo your vehicle. Dirt, debris, salt all can wear off seals and wash away lubricants from your suspension. With a constant build up, it leads to increased corrosion of parts and if severe enough can cause separation of those parts causing them to malfunction. If needed have a mechanic check the alignment and suspension.

Fluid Check

The easiest implementation to do after a wash is to do a fluid self-check. A mini checklist inside your checklist. NOTE: Make sure your car has been turned off and had proper time to cool down. This is very important for safety reasons!

Window Washer Fluid – Allows the washing of your window while your driving which helps your wiper blades and your window to stay clean so you can see.

Oil Levels – Main lubrication of your engine to reduce friction and wear on moving parts.

Brake Fluid – Responsible for various moving parts of your braking system. It’s also called hydraulic fluid and operates under high pressure and temperatures.

Cooling Systems – Various names such as coolant, antifreeze and normally a bright yellow or green liquid. It helps regulate your vehicle’s radiator temperatures. In winters it keeps your radiator from freezing and with the upcoming summer, it keeps your car from overheating.  

Power Steering Fluid – Assists the driver with turning by the use of a pressurized pump that adds power behind your steering wheel. It simply helps you turn easier.

Transmission Fluid – Another lubricant but this time for your transmission reducing friction when shifting gears. For automatic transmissions, this fluid also acts as a coolant.

For more independent vehicle owners head over to the Self-Check: Six Fluids Guide.

Wiper Blades

Along with checking your window washing fluid, you should also check the part that uses them. Wiper blades should be checked every half a year because they don’t last a long as people often think they do.

Common indicators they need replacement is that they no longer fully contact the window, make a squeaking or chattering sound, visually they skip sections of your window or leave streaks marks across it.

Tire Pressure and Threading

Check your tires pressure levels and treading. They are what keep you on the road, literally. Keeping your tires well maintained also help your gas mileage.

All tires are marked with the require PSI needed for their type. The best bet it to check and fill your tires while they are “cold” meaning when you haven’t been driving recently. This allows you to get a more accurate reading of your tire pressure since heat will make the air in your tire expand.

Give your tire a “coin test” where you insert a quarter into the groves of each tire. If Washington’s head is party covered you still have a good bit of treading left. If the tip of his head or none of is head is covered it’s probably time to change your tires. One way to help the tread last as long as possible is tire rotations every 5,000 miles to keep the wear even.

Breaks

One of the main safety features of any vehicle is the brakes. Over time they wear down and especially in winter and just like your undercarriage they get a lot of abuse from the road.  

A few notable signs that you should get your brakes checks is if your car pulls to one side or the other when you break. This pulling means one of your brakes could be misaligned or not making full contact with your disc brake. Another sign is when breaking you hear a squeaking or grinding nose paired with your brake pedal feeling too soft. If in doubt, get it checked out.

Cabin Filters

Not necessarily needed for driving performance but more for comfort.

Cabin filters keep out dust, pollen, allergens, and various air pollutants. If you’re more prone to springtime allergens or live in a busy city that has considerable pollutions changing your filters would benefit you more than you think. Even if you’re not in the city if you often drive around dusty areas or dirt roads these filters can get full quicker than you think.

Not only do cabin filters help keep out particles you don’t want in your cabin, replacing them will help the air flow of your heating and cooling systems making them more effective.

It’s also suggested that you give the fabric of your car a good vacuuming, as they are the number one dust and pollen collector within your vehicle.

Belts and Hoses

Broken belts and hoses are one of the worst-case scenarios for summer.  Belts transfer power through kinetic energy to many vital components whereas hoses transfer fluid such as coolant, and oil. Both are vital to the health of your vehicle and should be inspected every three years or 36,000 miles. They are often overlooked until it’s too late.

Belts when not working properly can cause from loss of power to steering to overheating of the engine. Cracked and peeling belts or screeching when the engine is running is a clear warning sign to get them replaced.  

Hoses when not working properly can cause heating and cooling systems to malfunction. A good sign you need a hose replacement is if you see leaking of oil or coolant. Be sure not to confuse this with condensation that drips off your car when you have the AC on. Another sign is when you have turned your car off and given it time to cool down you can physically inspect the hose. You can use your hand to feel out any odd bumps, cracks, nicks, and bulges. Your hose should feel firm and not soft or mushy.

Battery

Nothing can be started without your battery. Being exposed to extended cold weather can sap the life out of your battery. Now that you’re out of the cold weather the best thing to do is get your battery tested for a charge, voltage output, and capacity for accumulating a charge.

Getting your vehicle battery tested could potentially bring to light various flaws. A few indicators of a battery that is in need of replacement is dimming headlights, interior lights, slow power windows, etc.

It may also be beneficial to run your battery on a battery tender for a few hours once the cold weather has settled. This will ensure a completely full charge and can help maintain the deep cycle range of your battery.

 

This checklist can seem a bit daunting but there are many easy ways to prevent further cost down the road by following it. If unsure about doing any checks yourself you should always have a certified mechanic look over your car for you to give the proper care that your car needs.