Winter and spring are just as hard on your car as it is on you. Slushy, dirty roads can damage your vehicle’s body, while frigid temperatures make your engine work overtime. Your car needs more than a spring-cleaning to get it ready for summer road trip season.
Whether you do it yourself or take your vehicle to a mechanic, our seasonal maintenance recommendations could help you prepare it for summer:
Rotate the tires.
With every change of season, examine your vehicle’s tires for both general and uneven wear. Tires that wear unevenly across their tread or in comparison to each other should be inspected for misalignment and corrected. Front and rear tires do different amounts of work and so wear out in different spots. Make your tires last longer by rotating them or having them rotated according to the recommendations in your Owner’s Manual.
Check the electrical system.
If your car battery is charged but the engine still struggles to turn over, there may be a problem with your starter motor. Have a mechanic test the circuit to see if it gets sufficient battery voltage or if it’s drawing excessive current. Either issue may cause the starter to not crank the engine properly and may indicate a bigger problem.
Change fluids and filters.
Every driver knows you have to change your oil (which might mean a new oil filter). But when did you last check the other fluids and filters? Automatic transmission and brake fluid should be changed every 50,000 to 100,000km (or whatever interval the Owner’s Manual recommends). There’s a small dipstick for transmission fluid, usually behind the engine. It should be bright pink. Brake fluid is usually a clear beige colour. If these fluids are clouded or dirty, have them changed to ensure good performance and long life for your car. Don’t forget to check coolant levels. Overheating is a possible cause of breakdowns and vehicle fires—especially in hot summer weather. Check the air filter and replace it if it’s dirty. Spring and summer roads can clog it even more and reduce performance.
Test the air conditioning.
If your car has an air conditioning unit, start it up to make sure the compressor works and it blows cold air. If not, you may need the refrigerant topped up. You should also check your cabin air filter (usually hidden behind the glove box and easy to replace yourself). If it’s black or wet, get a new one.
Consider replacing the wiper blades.
By the time spring rains start to fall, winter might have worn out your wipers so badly they streak up the windshield. Replace the blades or their rubber inserts to help maintain safe visibility. Fresh blades will also prevent windshield scratches and scrapes from contact with the metal blade holders.
Wash and wax.
The road salt and sand mixes used to melt winter snow and ice can accumulate on the underside of your vehicle and trigger corrosion. While it’s a good idea to get regular car washes throughout the winter, in the spring, your vehicle needs a thorough washing to clean out all the nooks and crannies where salt and dirt can collect. A coat of wax will help bead off rain and protect your car’s finish from summer’s intensity.
Preserve the interior.
Getting in and out of your vehicle in winter tracks snow and salt inside, where it melts off your shoes or boots onto your mats and carpeting. Vacuuming will pick up loose debris and sand, but getting deeply embedded salt and dirt stains out requires professional carpet cleaning. To make your interior look “new” again, consider taking your vehicle to a professional detailer for restoration.
Check the brakes.
Brake pads and rotors wear down as they’re applied to slow the car. When they get near the end of their service life, “stopping” performance wears down, too. Replace brake pads that are too thin or damaged rotors.
Adjust your driving habits to the season
Erratic weather patterns may challenge drivers any time of year. Spring and summer can mean heavy rain, windstorms, close encounters with wildlife, and more. Drive safe this season with these tips:
Beware of potholes.
Accidents can happen when you’re trying to swerve to avoid a pothole, so always be mindful of other vehicles. Keep your tires properly inflated so they’re more prepared to sustain a bump. Drive slowly and keep your distance in order to see potholes well in advance. If you hit a big pothole, have your tires, wheels, and suspension checked by a mechanic because your vehicle may have taken serious damage.
Watch for vehicles of all shapes and sizes.
Expect more motorcyclists and bicyclists to be on the road—get accustomed to sharing the road with people who drive on two wheels. Don’t forget about animals either, who are out of hibernation.