Victoria Car & Vehicle Maintenance: Spring-Summer Checkup
Spring maintenance prepares your car for warmer weather, now that you no longer need to deal with the stresses of winter driving. This can also be a preparation for your vacation travel.
Have a look in your vehicle's owner's manual which contains useful information like how to change the tire and where is the jack located, how to change a headlight bulb, what's the proper tire pressure, and how to use overdrive when towing a trailer.
- Wiper blades play an extremely important role in increasing visibility, especially during heavy rainstorms. Replace them when cracked, cut, torn, of if they streak or chatter when wiping
- Check the tire treads for significant signs of wear, in which case they should be replaced. Especially watch for bulges and bald spots. Inspect the tread for uneven wear, which could indicate the need for a tire rotation, and check the tire pressures.
- Check you r spare tire and tire jack. If your car has a spare tire secured underneath make sure it can be easily removed - the locking mechanism may be rusted through. Check if the jack is still operable (you may need to oil its hinges).
- Give your car a good washing from top to bottom. Use a product specifically made for automobiles and automotive paints (dishwashing soap will remove car wax!). Make sure to give the underbody of the vehicle a good washing as well to remove salt, sand and dirt that causes corrosion.
- If you find minor paint damage, cover the paint chips as quickly as possible. A quick fix with a little clear nail polish on the scratch will hold you over until you get proper touchup supplies.
- Spring is an excellent time for waxing, which not only protects the finish but also makes subsequent washing easier. Before proceeding, wash your car to ensure the surface is very clean, so that the finish does not get scratched.
- Adding a fuel system cleaner to your gas tank after every oil change (every three months or 3,000 miles for most drivers) which helps to remove various waxy deposits and restores engine performance and fuel economy.
- Check the headlights, taillights, reverse lights and signaling lights for problems - at least once every few months. Have someone walk around the car and observe while you test the brakes and turn signals.
- If the car "wanders" from side to side (or just to one site) at highway speed? Have a garage check the wheel alignment. Improper wheel alignment may easily cause a car to skid at a high speed.
Under the Hood:
- A good rule of thumb is that a change of season equals a change of oil. Changing your car's oil every three months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first, will ensure that your car operates at peak efficiency. If you roil is dark like Guinness beer; then it is time for a change. Changing oil regularly is the single most important thing that can be done to extend the life of your vehicle and keep it running smoothly.
- Get a tune-up if necessary. Tune-ups on modern vehicles should include the following systems: battery, charging and starting, engine mechanical, powertrain control - including onboard diagnostic check, - fuel, ignition and emissions.
- Check the engine oil, and if your next oil change is due soon, definitely do it before a trip. To check the engine oil, park the car on a flat surface, and wait for a minute for the oil to rest in the oil pan. Locate the oil dipstick - often with a bright color handle that indicates "ENGINE OIL". Pull the dipstick out, wipe it with a clean rug or a paper towel and insert it back fully. Pull it out again and check the level - it should be close to the "FULL" mark on the dipstick. If the oil appears too black - it definitely needs to be changed. If the level is low you can top it up using the same type of oil as you already have in the engine.
- If your transmission fluid change due soon. change it before a trip. To check transmission fluid levels, warm up the car and park on a level surface. Set the hand brake and put the shifter lever in the Park position. Leave the engine idling (check your owner's manual!) pull out the automatic transmission fluid dipstick, wipe it, and re-insert it fully. Pull it out again and check the fluid level and condition. Conventional transmission fluid has red or pinkish-red color when it's new, but with usage it oxidizes to become brownish. If it appears too dark, change it, especially if you going to tow a trailer.
- Wait until the engine is cool before unscrewing the radiator cap. If the rubber gasket inside the cap is cracked or brittle, replace the cap. Check the engine antifreeze (coolant) level in the clear plastic overflow tank. The level should be between "Min" and "Max" marks. If the antifreeze level is well below the minimum, check for possible leaks. Any leaks should be fixed before a trip!. If it's lower just a bit, you can top up the overflow reservoir using anti-freeze mixed 50/50 with water. The antifreeze/coolant should be refreshed every two years.
- Check belts and hoses. Check belts for cracks, wear, glazing and proper tension. A belt that fails can affect the electrical system, air conditioning and power steering, as well as the cooling system, not to mention your fuel injection valves. Cooling system hoses may have cracks at the ends or. be deteriorating from within (they'll feel hard, blistered or spongy). Any old hoses and clamps in marginal condition should be replaced. Listen to the engine with the radio off and the windows rolled down. Squealing noises as the engine accelerates, or slow, rhythmic slapping sounds when the car idles, indicate belt problems. Because extreme heat in summertime can accelerate breakage and leaks in weak hoses and belts, its better to be safe than sorry.
- Inspect your battery, as summer air conditioning loads place a special strain. If you see corrosion (a white crust), clean it with a mixture of baking soda and water (with caps on) scrubbing with an old toothbrush. Top up any low battery cells with distilled water. Make sure the battery terminals and hold-downs are tight. Finally, have the battery tested
- Change the cabin air filter, especially after a rainy or dusty winter season. Musty odors coming out of the air conditioning vents are a sign that the filter is overdue for a change.
Under the Vehicle:
- Spring is a good time to check the entire brake system, including brake linings, rotors and drums.
- Check the shocks or struts for signs of physical damage, such as leaking, rusting, or dents. Watch for warning signs of a need for imminent replacement: the vehicle rolls or sways on turns, the front end dives when braking, the rear end squats when accelerating, the vehicle sits lower in the front or rear, there's a loss of directional control during sudden stops, and the vehicle bounces or slides sideways on a winding or rough road. A quick check while the car is parked is to push down on each corner and release. If the car bounces for a while, instead of quickly returning to a resting position, you need to have the suspension looked at by a professional. Look inside the wheel well to see if all four struts (shock absorbers) appear dry? If any of them leaks oil - it should be replaced before a trip.
- If you notice any fluid puddles or stains under your vehicle, it's time to have it professionally inspected. There are several fluids that can leak from the vehicle including antifreeze/coolant, battery acid, brake fluid, clear water, diesel fuel, engine oil, gasoline, gear oil, power steering fluid, shock and strut fluid, transmission fluid and windshield washer fluid.
Inside the Vehicle:
- Apply an interior surface protectant throughout the car. This acts like anti-wrinkle cream for the car's leather and synthetic surfaces (you need a different protectant for leather and for synthetics) . This will keep the dash look like new, and reduce or delay the appearance of cracks in the vehicle's interior.