Get your car ready for springFri, 21 Mar 2014 00:00:00 -0700
As the salt and sand are washed away from the roadways, and potholes the size of moon craters appear, vehicle maintenance should move to the forefront. You made it. The wretched winter weather has left your ride grungy and maybe even a little clunky. But we have a few comprehensive steps that will ease your wheels back into top running shape.
Let's start with the interior. It's time to clean every nook and cranny, digging out lost change, fossilized French fries and other crud that tends to build up after a winter of not cleaning. Begin by breaking out the vacuum or a carpet cleaner and suck up the loose particles from the cabin, focusing on the areas between the seats. We prefer to use compressed air to blast all of the crumbs out from under the seats -- and better yet, to get at the dust build-up between all of the switches and knobs.
Cleaning the upholstery in your car is just as important as maintaining the carpets within your home. Particulate like salt, dust, and sand will work into the carpeting and fabric and begin to break down the fibers. Not to mention any accidental coffee spills -- those will add a rather pungent odor. We prefer the use of an extractor that applies a heated cleaning solution and then removes it via a vacuum.
Invisible Glass cleaner is an excellent product for cleaning windows and other surfaces.
The next step is to get a microfiber towel and wipe down everything. Scrub and scrub more, focusing on all of the surfaces that your hands and feet come into contact with. Follow up with a good glass cleaner on the windows, and the interior will gleam with freshness. Oh, and don't forget to finish off the job with a scented Little Tree air freshener.
Moving to the exterior, the grime that builds up on your vehicle's paint can be more than meets the eye. Get a sturdy wash mitt or terry cloth, along with a hearty mix of car wash detergent and a big bucket of warm water. Spending the time to get all of the contaminants off will provide a better surface for a good springtime waxing.
Meguiar's clay bar system is easy to use and is equally effective as a professional kit.
If time permits, adding in a clay bar regimen will also prep the surface for your preferred wax of choice.
Be sure to wash the wheel wells and the undercarriage thoroughly, especially for vehicles that commute down salty roads. The final step is to apply an even coat of wax to seal the clear coat and provide a wonderful springtime shine.
A K&N air filter is a oiled element filter that is reusable and easy to care for.
Next, get under the hood and take a peek. Follow manufacturer specifications on fluid capacities and check the engine oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid -- blinker fluid (Ha!), washer fluid and coolant levels. Be sure that the vehicle is on a level surface with the engine off and cooled down before performing any maintenance. This is also an opportune time to inspect the engine air filter and if applicable, the in-cabin air filter.
For a quality repair and a good OE replacement MOOG has thousands of parts available.
Whether you do it yourself or leave it to the professionals, a good suspension check is in order. Frost heaves and potholes with the addition of freezing cold temperatures all take their toll on vital suspension components. For improved handling and performance, shocks, struts and springs need to be checked for wear and replaced if the service interval is required or signs of failure are visible. Ball joints and tie-rods are vital for proper alignment and safety -- if you hear an eerie clunk, it's probably time to have it inspected by a suspension specialist. Bushing and other rubber components become worn and deteriorated, and eventually need to be replaced. Because suspension components are often difficult to diagnose, the use of an alignment rack becomes crucial when performing proper springtime maintenance.
If it is time to replace your brake pads look into a set of semi-ceramic of fully ceramic brake pads.
Brakes are just as important as a good suspension, as both systems work hand in hand to stop the vehicle safely. Brake pads and shoes all need to be changed when they reach a certain wear indicator, and will need to be replaced before causing damage to other brake components. Rotors and drums also will have to be changed if improper wear signs are visible, or if minimal thickness or out-of-round symptoms are present.
When looking for a set of tires there are dozens of different manufactures so pricing out the options is important.
Last but not least, tires. It's literally where the rubber meets the road. Tires affect handling dynamics, fuel economy and traction. If necessary, once temperatures go above freezing and the threat of snow is gone, swapping out your winter tires for a set of all-seasons is on the docket. Be sure that tire pressure and tread depth are all within specifications for proper function.
These are just a few steps that can offer a spring/summer free of vehicle issues. But as always, follow manufacturer recommendations before completing any repairs yourself.
By Brad Wiley