Spring has sprung, and all you can think about is a pleasant drive to the coast, the mountains or your favorite lake. But after an hour on the road, your car stalls. Your carefree drive has become a tow-truck ride to a nearby mechanic.
Trading a relaxing getaway for a hefty repair bill isn’t what you had in mind for the weekend, but regular car maintenance can help you avoid this scenario. Winter weather can take a toll on your vehicle, so spring is the perfect time to catch any hidden issues lurking under the hood.
Wash Away the Salt
If you live in a part of the country that makes you feel like an honorary cast member of Frozen, you’re probably familiar with road salt. Although salt is great for keeping the roads drivable in snow and ice, prolonged salt exposure wears away at your car, causing the underbody and other components to rust. This corrosion may lead to leaky brakes and permanent damage to your car’s frame, jeopardizing your safety and making the car harder to resell. Before you hit the road this spring, clean the underbody and wheels with a pressure washer to remove salt buildup.
Wax the Exterior
Severe winter weather, prolonged sun exposure and salt wreak havoc on your car’s paint, causing it to lose its luster and appear older than it actually is. A paint job is costly, so be preventative. According to Car and Driver magazine, applying wax a couple times per year can help maintain your car’s like-new color.
Replace Old Windshield Wipers
Hail, sleet and snow can damage your windshield wipers during the winter. Driving in a spring rain storm with wipers that fail to clear the windshield can be a serious safety hazard. Replace them as soon as they show signs of cracking or wear.
Grease the Hinges
Salt buildup, condensation, regular use and age can rust the hinges of your doors and trunk. To keep corrosion at bay, lube them up with lithium grease, sold at many auto supply stores. This will nip any annoying squeaks in the bud, too. Your ears will thank you!
Get a New Air Filter
Replacing the filter to your car’s air conditioning unit is a big part of vehicle maintenance. Dust, pollen, decaying plant material and other allergens can make their way into the ventilation system through the hood of your car, clogging the filter and contaminating the air you breathe in the cabin. CarCare.org encourages drivers to replace the air conditioning filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles to help keep things clean and fresh.
Top Off Your Fluids
Freezing temperatures can quickly deplete fluids in your car. According to CARFAX, it’s imperative that you have your oil changed as recommended in your car’s user manual, typically every 5,000 to 7,000 miles. Top off other fluids, such as windshield wiper fluid and coolant, every few months.
Check Your Tire Pressure
The transition from cold to warm weather can cause the air in tires to heat up and expand. This can result in a rougher ride and greater potential damage from road hazards due to increased tire pressure. Before outdoor temperatures rise significantly, make sure your tires are filled to the correct air pressure to prevent a potentially hazardous situation. If you’re worried about checking the pressure yourself, take your car to a professional—most big chains will do it for free.
Along with regular checkups by a mechanic, following these tips can help extend the longevity of your vehicle—not to mention improve its appearance. By following a few auto spring cleaning tips now, you could save money—and time—on unexpected repairs that could otherwise stall your weekend plans.