The sun is shining and winter rains have given way to clear blue skies, providing us with plenty of inspiration to embrace the great outdoors. Wintery weather can be particularly tough on cars, so spring is the ideal time to get your ride ready for the warmer weather. Here is a list of things worth checking to help your car shake off the winter cold.
Just because you can’t see your car’s undercarriage doesn’t mean it’s safe to ignore it. Driving a car in wintery conditions means it’s likely to have a build-up of salt and grime thanks to the wet and snowy conditions. If the residual buildup isn’t cleaned off, it can wreak havoc on the undercarriage of your vehicle.
When corrosives such as salt cling to your vehicle’s undercarriage, it can eat away at the paint and metal. This will cause rust which damages your car, and if left unchecked, may even make it unsafe to drive. Even if you live in a place where winters are mild, the sand and grime of seasons past should be cleaned off to minimize the risk of scratching and damaging the paint which can save you a lot of money on rust-related repairs.
You can clean the underside of your vehicle yourself if you have access to a pressure washer and some kind of jack stands or car lift. However, most people will choose to have it done at the car wash for ease. A cheap car wash likely won’t include undercarriage cleaning and you may have to pay extra for the service. An inexpensive corrosion inhibitor spray can provide an additional layer of protection.
Replace Wiper Blades
Changing wiper blades is a quick and simple automotive maintenance task that anyone can do. Given that wiper blades generally need to be replaced annually, you can save a little money by learning how to do it yourself.
The simplest way to tell if your wiper blades need changing is by gauging their effectiveness as you’re using them. Faulty wipers won’t clear your windshield effectively. They might smear film or grime across the windshield, leaving it just as wet and dirty as before. They may also make a screeching or chattering noise, or simply not glide smoothly across the windshield. A visual inspection may also show worn or cracked rubber where the blade makes contact with the windshield.
The process to replace a set of wiper blades is simple:
- Measure your old blades to ensure your new ones will fit your car (or refer to your trusty owner’s manual)
- Lift the metal wiper arm away from the windshield
- Unhook the old wiper blade (some blades have a release tab or pins you’ll need to locate)
- Pull the old wiper blade off the wiper arm
- Insert the new wiper blade where you pulled the old one out
- Snap the hooks into place
- Lower the wiper arm onto the windshield
- Repeat the process for the other wiper arm
- Once complete, test the function using your windshield washers
If you’re still confused here is an easy-to-follow YouTube tutorial.
Check Tire Pressure
Below-freezing temperatures and icy conditions can affect your tires’ performance and durability. In some areas of the country, it gets so cold that people will fit their vehicles with winter tires. However, if you live in an area with mild winters, there are just a few things to check to make sure your tires will keep you safe come spring.
The first step is to check your vehicle’s tire pressure. It’s important to note that even though there is no difference between summer and winter tire pressure (assuming you have all-season tires), the drop in temperature causes air to contract, leading to a potentially underinflated tire. The recommended tire pressure should be printed on a label inside of your driverside doorjamb. You can also find it listed in your owner’s manual.
While you’re adjusting your tire pressure, it’s the perfect time to check the condition of your tires and how they’ve worn over winter. Tires should be free of any cuts, nicks, or scratches. Additionally, wear should be even across the tread width – if the tire wear is not uniform it can indicate a problem with the vehicle’s wheel alignment or tire balance.
Curious to learn more about maintaining your tires? Check out our blog post about everything you need to know about tires!
Coolant plays a vital role in keeping an engine running at its optimal temperature all year-round. If you can’t remember the last time it was changed, it’s probably overdue. During winter in especially cold regions, antifreeze additives may be added to the coolant. This causes the engine to run hotter than normal, which means it will need to be flushed out at the end of winter.
As well as preventing your engine from freezing, coolant lubricates protect engine parts like the water pump and cylinders. It reduces engine corrosion and wear on rubber parts like gaskets and radiator hoses.
Not changing your engine coolant according to your car’s service schedule leads to radiator corrosion, a build-up of contaminants in your cooling system, and even a total cooling system failure which can cause serious (and expensive) damage to the engine. Get your cooling system checked out before the weather heats up to protect your engine against rising temperatures and overheating.
Winter can put additional stress on your car’s battery. Cold temperatures slow down the electrochemical reactions that provide the electricity needed to start your car. If water inside the cells has frozen, it can damage them irreparably. All this leads to a sluggish battery and a car that refuses to start.
A dying car battery will generally give off some warning of its coming demise. Signs of a failing car battery include dim headlights, a slow engine crank or clicking sound when turning the key, and signs of corrosion around the battery terminals. Testing a car battery is a simple service and will help ensure you don’t get stuck with a car that won’t spring into action in springtime.
Inspect Belts and Hoses
Extreme temperatures are particularly hard on rubber components. For example, radiator hoses and drive belts can become less pliable and more susceptible to developing cracks or leaks. When this happens your engine can potentially lose coolant and overheat, or a belt can snap, rendering your vehicle undrivable.
But it’s not all bad news because checking the health of your belts and hoses is a pretty straightforward job. Hoses are identifiable because they look like, well, hoses. Your car has two main hoses, one and the top and one at the bottom of the radiator. Your car engine must be cool before this check is carried out. Inspect the hoses for any sign of damage or leaks and give the hose a squeeze – they should feel firm yet pliant (not too hard and not too soft).
Almost all modern cars have a single belt at the front of the engine, called a serpentine or drive belt. Older vehicles may have a second belt that drives accessories. A visual inspection can be carried out for any signs of cracking, fraying, or small missing chunks of rubber. Belts will often become noisy by emitting a screeching sound when you start your car. If you have noticed any of these, it’s time to replace the belt.
Check Brake Pads
Your brakes may have gotten a workout over the winter due to the wet or icy road conditions. If left unchecked, they can cause problems for you as you coast into summer.
When inspecting brake pads, you or a mechanic will need to assess the brake pad thickness. A good rule of thumb is to replace them if they are any thinner than 1/8″ to 3/16″. Some brake pads have a wear indicator slot in the center of the pad. Once this is visible the pads are due to be replaced.
Curious if a brake pad replacement is a doable DIY project? Here are our pros and cons of tackling the task yourself.
For those who aren’t the DIY type, let your trusted mechanic perform this task. While they check the brakes, they will also inspect other components in the same area such as tire wear, wheel bearings, suspension, and steering. Brake fluid should also be checked as a low fluid level is indicative of brake problems. In addition to the fluid level, the color should be inspected and checked for contaminants.
Interested in learning more? Here’s everything you need to know about your brakes.
Inspect the Rest of Your Car
With summer fast approaching, spring is the perfect time to give the rest of your car a once over. Check for leaks, strange noises, and any new imperfections in the exterior. While you’re at it, make sure that all of your lights (headlights, taillights, signals, emergency, etc.) are all working properly.
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 oil changed, and when it’s due to be done again. Arrange to have a mobile mechanic come to take care of anything that needs addressing. Keeping on top of all these small tasks can save you some big headaches down the road.
The magic of spring can lift our mood, leaving us feeling rejuvenated. But if the inside of your car is still a wet muddy mess, you’ll be left with an unpleasant reminder of the winter past. Cleaning the inside of a car that got particularly dirty over winter requires a bit of elbow grease to get it back to a fresh state again.
Muddy floor mats and wet carpets seem to bear the worst of wintery weather. Not to mention, the carpet will need to be dried before attempting to remove any dirt and debris. Once it’s dry, it’s a case of vacuuming up the loose dirt and using an automotive carpet cleaner to scrub the affected area. Our tip is to consider switching to rubber floor mats for winter, as it will prevent water damage to your carpet. They are also much easier to clean.
Seats are another area that needs some extra TLC due to absorbing rainwater from your clothes. The seats may have long since dried, but they’ll need to be treated to prevent nasty odors. Fabric seats can be vacuumed and scrubbed with upholstery cleaner. If you need to remove residue after scrubbing, use as little water as possible. Leather seats should always be treated with specialized leather cleaning products.
For those that prefer natural cleaning products, there are a number of household products you can use such as baking soda or vinegar to substitute for commercial cleaning products.
Bonus: Pack a Picnic Kit!
Now that your car is spring-ready, the only thing left to do is enjoy it! With warmer weather comes plenty of chances for road trips, sunset gazing, beach parties, and picnics. One of our ‘must-have’ items for spring is a car picnic kit. And even if you don’t want to drop $30,000 for a Rolls Royce fine-dining picnic hamper, you can put together a kit with the essentials for much, much less.
Some suggestions to help you prepare your picnic kit are:
- Picnic blanket: Bonus points for getting one with a waterproof barrier
- Picnic chairs: For some extra back support
- All-purpose knife: Useful for cutting bread, fruit, and cheeses
- Disposable cups: These will almost always come in handy
- Napkins or paper towel roll: Avoid making a mess especially if there’s no running water in sight
- Matches or lighter: A must-have for birthday celebrations or campfires
- Sunscreen: Even on cloudy days, you’ll want to avoid sunburn
- Cutting board: Remember all those cheese and fruits we mentioned earlier?
- Utensils: It’s almost a given that at some point, you’ll remember to bring food and forget the utensils