Spring is upon us. For our vehicles, the winter driving season can be as unforgiving as Thanksgiving is to our waistlines, so this time of year is an important time to catch up on preventative maintenance. Beyond switching tires (for those that use dedicated winter rubber), what kind of used car maintenance can you do to make sure your vehicle makes it into the warmer months running smoothly? Let’s take a look.
Give It a Bath
In parts of the country that receive regular snowfall, the roads are usually coated with a layer of salt treatment and get a heavy dusting of actual salt and sand after a storm rolls through. As we drive after a storm, the melted snow and the slurry of salt/sand forms a coating that makes every vehicle on the road a gray and nasty mess.
Even with the risk of being frozen into our cars, some of us will make an occasional trip through the automatic carwash during the colder months, but the outcomes here are purely cosmetic. The magic fingers carwash will remove the sand and salt that you can see, but doesn’t do a great job at removing the caked-on gunk that lives lower on the vehicle. For this type of used car maintenance, you’ll need to take on the job yourself when the weather warms up a bit. Visit a car wash with a brush and high-pressure spray to scrub the lower parts and spray thoroughly to remove any remaining salt and sand.
Get an Alignment
Getting an alignment is critical for used car maintenance. Even in places where the snow plows haven’t taken their toll on the roads, colder temperatures can cause roads to buckle and crack. The constant jostling and bumps will eventually cause issues with a vehicle’s alignment, requiring an adjustment to make sure tires wear correctly and to help the vehicle ride smoothly and safely.
The most convenient time to do this is when you’re already visiting a shop for an oil change. Go ahead and ask for an alignment and a tire rotation while they have your vehicle in the shop to save time and keep things rolling smoothly.
Check Wiper Blades and Fluids
Ice, salt, and sand can build up on windshields over time and may damage the rubber parts of wiper blades. You may not notice it at the time, but when spring rains start you’ll be faced with a streaky windshield and poor visibility. As soon as the weather starts to warm, check your wiper blades for damage and replace as necessary.
Similarly, you probably burned through more than normal amount of wiper fluid to clean the gunk off your windshield. Most newer vehicles have a warning light to alert you of low fluid, but it’s a good idea to top off the reservoir when checking the blades.
Check Your Battery
If you’ve recently replaced your battery, it’s likely to be fine, but winter and cold weather are tough on vehicles’ electrical system. As batteries are exposed to cold temperatures, they drain more quickly and may not recharge as completely as they do in the warmer months. Many shops and even auto parts stores offer free battery inspections to check for degradation and wear.
Many of these suggestions are part of a regular used car maintenance routine and should be done regardless of the temperature but become more important as we drive through the tough conditions of winter. Taking steps to keep up with preventative maintenance can save big headaches later and will help keep your vehicle on the road longer and riding more safely.