Now that the last flurries of Winter are starting to fade and the average temperature is climbing into the positives again, it's just about time to do some spring cleaning on your car. We'll walk you through the things you need to know before your vehicle can properly enjoy the warm weather. There's nothing more disappointing than the sun not shining off your dirty car while you cruise down the highway, or a sudden blow out at the beginning of the season because your tires weren't in as good condition as you thought. So, let's get to it so we can all go and enjoy the beautiful weather.
Wash Your Car
Vehicles get ravaged in the winter by the near-constant onslaught of snow, slush, water, and salt, which cake the underside of the car and cause corrosion. To keep the red rust monster from taking bites out of your ride, give the entire exterior a good hose down with soap and water. If possible, use a pressure washer to help dig those oxidizers from the nooks and crannies of your car and keep it running longer. Remember to wash from the top down, so your car comes out sparkling clean. Regular cleaning of the undercarriage, wheels and exposed parts under the vehicle are essential to keeping your baby on the road year after year.
But it isn’t just the exterior you need to clean, as our next slide will show.
Wash Your Windows
Dirty windows can be a hazard, even if you can still see through them. Streaks and spots cause eye fatigue, which can increase the chance of falling asleep behind the wheel. Dirty windshields also obscure vision when driving at night by increasing glare from oncoming lights. So, bust out the bottle of your favorite window cleaner and get going. Don’t forget to wipe down your mirrors as well, so you can see whatever’s behind you. While using ammonia-based products are okay for standard glass, the solvents can ruin tint and leave streaks on windshields, which is why it is recommended you use dedicated car window cleaners.
While we’re making the windows sparkle, let’s keep them that way with our next slide.
Now that your windshield is nice and clean, you may as well try to keep it like that. We’ve all made the impatient move of trying to soak the ice off our windscreen using washer fluid and wipers, leaving the rubber squeegee arms in tatters by the end of the season. If your wipers leave more lines than a football field in your vision, it’s time to replace them. If you’re unsure of what size to get, most places will have a way to look up your car’s model and wiper sizes, or you can measure them. There are a couple of types of wiper out there, meaning you can go with a conventional wiper with the blade built into the assembly, or beam blades, which are mounted on a springy steel beam and are touted to fit today’s curved windshields better. Whichever you choose, be sure to give them a regular wipe down to remove any shmutz that built up on the blade edge to keep their performance top notch. Ideally, your blades should be replaced twice a year.
Now that we can see out let’s make sure the inside is worth looking at too.
Clean The Interior
You wouldn’t believe the crud and muck your feet drag into your car. On top of vacuuming out the floor mats, remove them and wash out the salt and sand with a fabric shampoo. Give your dash, wheel, and console a wash down with a damp rag to take up the dust and caked in coffee, then go over them with an interior compound for your hard bits - which compound you use depends on what your interior has, whether it’s plastic, vinyl or leather. Next, take some upholstery cleaner to your seats and headliner, this goes double for smokers, who may find it worthwhile to rinse and repeat this step as necessary.
Now that the interior and exterior are sparkling clean, it’s time to make sure your car runs as good as it looks.
Give Your Tires A Look Over
Before you swap out your winter tires, take a look at your all seasons and make sure they are ready for the season. Check the tread depth and make sure there are no wear bars visible. Look inside the grooves for cracks along the tread-lines and search your sidewalls for bulges and damage. If you keep your tires on rims over the winter, check the bead seal, as well as look for corrosion that could compromise the wheel. Now is also an excellent time to make sure all of the balancing weights are still in place. Once you’ve given your summers a solid once over, you should check the set that you’re taking off using the same guidelines. Don't forget to double check that the air pressure is where it should be and equal across the tires as well.
Now is a good time for our next slide since you already have your wheels off.
Inspect Your Brakes
Winter driving can have serious implications for your brakes. Rotors and caliper calibrations can get thrown out of whack by extreme temperature changes, and the salt used on the roads can eat away at brake lines. Follow the brake line from the master cylinder and search for any noticeable corrosion. Look closely at the disks for warping and wear around the outside edge. If your car has drums, examine the shell for any breaches or damage done over the season. This is also an excellent time to check your brake fluid by making sure the reservoir is topped to the ‘max’ line with the grade indicated on the cap. Since brake fluid absorbs moisture from the air, which degrades its effectiveness, only use fluid from a previously unopened bottle.
While we’ve got the hood popped, let’s keep poking around in here.
Change The Oil
While most vehicles today can go 3-5000 miles before needing an oil change - longer on synthetic oils, your car works hard in the winter and changing the oil during your spring clean up is about as necessary as maintenance gets. If you are taking your vehicle to a mechanic for a check-up, you may as well have this done while they have it. The benefits of regular oil changes can be found in every vehicle’s manual and on the walls of any service station you walk into. Needless to say, the secret to a healthy and happy engine is regular maintenance.
Before you close the hood, there are a few more things we should check on.
Take A Look At Your Belts And Hoses
Cold winter air has a bad habit of drying out and cracking rubbers and plastics, which means your belts and hoses may need some TLC. Turn your belts and check for cracks, fraying or severe wear. The rubber of the belts and hoses should be matte and uniform. Hoses should be firm but pliable, not soft or squishy, which is a sign that you will need to replace it soon. If you see any bulges in the line, replace the hose immediately. Lumps can burst when under pressure, leaving you without a cooling system during the hot months and glassy looking sections of belts and hoses indicate heat damage and can cause the part to fail.
Once you’ve made sure your belts and hoses are ready for the season, it’s time to finish up this spring cleaning.
Wash Out Your Engine Bay
Before we start hosing down the engine bay, it's good to remember that there are things under the hood that don't like water. Cover any electronics like the alternator and distributor, as well as air intakes with plastic bags, and disconnect the negative terminal of your battery. Next, apply a liberal amount of degreaser to the affected areas, but don't let it dry out. Scrub with a coarse brush or cloth. Now, there are two camps for rinsing out your engine bay. The first says to introduce as little water as possible to the engine, and if you have to, use a low-pressure wash. The other side recommends using a pressure washer to rinse out the cleaning agent and grime. Whichever you decide, you should rinse from the firewall forward. I recommend doing this at a car wash where they are set up with a water reclamation system for that oily water you're rinsing out. Let the engine dry, remove the bags and it should look as good as new.
Now that your car is ready for the summer, it’s time to enjoy those sunshine drives.