Starting from salty winter roads to torrential spring downpours, each season has its own challenges to vehicle maintenance. While it’s tempting to deal with issues once they appear, maintaining your vehicle throughout the year will ensure you get the most out of your vehicle. Using this yearly guide to maintenance will help keep problems before they become a bigger headache down the road.
While salt is cool on icy roads, it poses a serious problem to cars. The salt on the roads can build up on metal undercarriages and create rust. An afternoon at the car wash after winter storms is a great way to take out salt— just make sure the sprayers thoroughly wash the undercarriage.
Winter is dangerous on tires. Even if you equip your car with all-season tires, icy and wintry conditions can wear them down in no time. Inspect each tire for adequate tread and spin them to extend life by using the penny trick: if Lincoln’s head disappears in the tread, then the tire is good. Also, inspect your spare tire and make sure the jack is in working condition.
Change Wiper Blades
Winter is also bad on wiper blades. Cold temperatures and ice buildup can bring down rubber compounds. Check each blade and change to prepare for the coming spring showers. This is also a good time to fill windshield wiper fluids.
Inspect Cooling Systems
If your air conditioning system is on its final leg, there’s a good chance it will fail in the summer heat. Ensure the system is blowing out cool air and get it inspected by a qualified technician if it isn’t working correctly. Double-check the coolant levels in your engines, including the antifreeze in the radiator. Remember, allow the radiator cap time to cool before touching.
Turn on vehicle lights and blinkers and make sure all the bulbs are in working order. Change them wherever necessary. Take note of the brightness of headlights while doing the check. Dirt and grime buildup can reduce visibility in rainy conditions. Use a wet rag to clean headlights.
Inspect your Brakes
Check the owner’s manual for how often you should change brakes. If you notice squeaking, pulsations, or rubbing noises, then make sure you have them checked by a professional. Keeping on top of the brakes will save you money in the long run and keeping more costly repairs down the road.
Replace the Oil
Your oil should be replaced at regular intervals determined by the manufacturer. Modern vehicle will alert you whenever the oil needs replacement, but checking it every six months or so is never bad. It’s also a good idea to check the oil before big journey or after a week of heavy driving, including long hauls or towing. Some experts advice switching to a thinner oil blend in areas where freezing temperatures are a problem.
A vehicle battery usually lasts anywhere from three to five years. You can check the health of your battery with a multimeter or by simply taking it to your local auto parts store. It’s especially vital to ensure your battery is running its best in winter as cold weather can increase battery failures. When you check the battery, also check the terminals and clean away any excess corrosion.
Check the Exhaust
Exhaust issues can decrease fuel mileage and become a safety concern if not addressed quickly. The exhaust lets out carbon monoxide gas that should never leak into the passenger compartment. The exhaust and floorboards should be checked for major holes and fixed wherever necessary.
Winter is a great time to change worn tires. Examine each tire for proper tread and any other visible signs of wear, including cuts and nicks in the outer wall. If you live in a location where winters are brutal, consider switching out your normal tires for the all-season variety.
Inspect Heater and Defroster
A working heating unit is important in the cold winter months. Not only does the heater offer warmth inside the car, but it also helps defrost windows which is important for safety. Check the heater and take it into a mechanic if it’s not blowing out hot air. In newer vehicles, you might also need to change the cabin air filter.
Winter is also harsh on engines. To ensure your engine is running top notch in cold conditions, check and change air, fuel, and cabin filters as recommended by the owner’s manual. It’s also advised to top off all fluid levels and fix any engine related problems, such as rough idling, difficult starts, and stalling.