Spring has sprung and it’s time to give your car a thorough refresh before road trip season starts. Winter weather can take a severe toll on your ride, but some basic maintenance can have it feeling like new before you know it.
A good place to start a spring checkup is one of the most neglected parts of the car, the battery. Modern batteries are sealed, so you don’t have to worry about topping off the electrolyte like the old days, but they do eventually wear out and lose their ability to hold a charge.
Cold weather is particularly hard on batteries, so it’s important to make sure that yours is putting out at least 12 volts and that it will hold a charge when left sitting. Dealer service technicians can perform a load test in just a few minutes to make sure the battery still has life in it. If the battery is unable to store electricity, you may not be able to start the engine when you need it.
If the battery tests okay, but your engine still struggles to turn over, the technician will check the alternator to make sure it puts out the voltage necessary to charge the battery and provide electricity for the accessories while driving. If the alternator isn’t putting out full power, it could be because the accessory drive belt has stretched over time and needs to be replaced, another fairly simple and inexpensive repair.
With the electrical system up to snuff, it’s time to take care of all the fluids, starting with your engine oil. Service intervals for oil changes have lengthened over the years, so verify your oil change interval, which can be impacted by your driving habits, the time of year and how much you tow with your factory-trained service technician. You’ll find the recommended intervals in your owner’s manual. Drivers who frequently drive on dirt roads or who do a lot of stop-and-go may also need to change the oil more frequently.
Of course, the oil filter should be replaced with the oil. If the oil filter gets clogged, pressure can build up, causing a bypass valve to open. If this happens, unfiltered oil can circulate through the engine and potentially cause very expensive damage.
Additional vehicle fluids to be checked include engine coolant and brake and power steering fluids. Many newer vehicles have electric power steering and don’t require any maintenance, but cars and trucks with hydraulic systems may need to be topped off to ensure proper performance.
The coolant needs to be kept full or the engine could overheat and suffer major damage. While checking the level, the technician will take a look at the color and make sure it remains bright and clean looking. Any change in coolant color will prompt further investigation to ensure there are no leaks or blockages in the system.
The snow, slush and salt of winter also tear up the rubber of the windshield wiper blades. By the time spring rains start to fall, the wipers often just leave streaks on the windshield, hampering visibility.
The road salt used to melt all that snow and ice can accumulate on the underside of a car or truck and trigger corrosion that reduces the life of your ride. While it’s a good idea to get regular car washes throughout the winter, in the spring, your vehicle should get a thorough washing including the undercarriage, especially in all the nooks and crannies where clumps of salt can collect.
Every time you get in and out of the car during the winter, snow and salt on your shoes or boots can get left behind on your vehicle’s carpet and mats. A professional interior detail will extract the salt and sand out of the carpet. You can keep a carpet clean with a vacuum, but really getting a deep clean requires a professional-grade carpet extractor. Your carpets and upholstery will look brand new afterward.
At every change of season, you should check your tires for both general and uneven wear. Since the front and rear tires do differing amounts of work, they should be rotated according to the recommendations in the owner’s manual to help maximize their life. If the tires are wearing excessively and/or unevenly, they should be checked for the correct inflation and wheels should be checked for proper alignment. Misalignment can also cause significant handling problems.
While the wheels are off the car for rotation, it’s a good time to check out the brakes. Brake pads and rotors wear down over time, but when they get too thin, you can lose stopping power. If the brake pads are too skinny or the rotors are grooved, they should be replaced.
You invest a lot of money in your vehicles and you want them to last. To get the most out of your cars and trucks, basic regular maintenance at each change of season can keep them running reliably for years to come. Schedule your service today.