By William Ha
The worst of winter is now over, and after enduring months of grinding cold starts, slush, and road salt, it’s now time to give your faithful car or truck some well-deserved TLC.
Use these tips to rejuvenate your vehicle this spring, so you can enjoy the beautiful days ahead trouble-free.
1 | Book Your Service Appointment in Advance
It is a pain trying to get a service appointment at the height of spring when you need to change back into your summer wheels. Book your appointment now so that you can reserve a timeslot before the busy season. Keep in mind that, depending on where you live and the local laws and auto insurance requirements, you may have to keep your winter wheels on until a certain date. If you are not bound to any conditions, you can switch back to your non-winter wheels once morning lows are consistently no colder than 7°C.
To get better service, consider booking an appointment on a weekday, during the mid-morning to early afternoon, so can you avoid the long line-ups and don’t encounter a lack of parking due to the rush of customers. When booking early, ask your auto workshop if there are any service specials or discounts, and when you get to your appointment, make sure you bring the essentials, like your wheel lock key. Finally, make sure you get an engine oil change and check all fluids, brakes suspension, and the condition of your wiper blades. Replace what needs to be replaced, especially if it impacts safety.
2 | Check Those Shoes
Even though it’s time for the winter tires to come off, make sure what you’re putting back on are still good to keep you safe during the rainy spring season and hot days ahead. If your summer or all-season tires are four seasons or older, it may be time to buy a new set because rubber hardens with age, which makes them less grippy. Have your technician also check the tire depth and ensure that there are no unusual wear patterns on the tire surface, such as more inner or outer tread wear or uneven tread surfaces. Finally, when the wheels are off, have your technician inspect the brakes, including a check of the brake fluid.
Important: Don’t forget that lonely spare tire (if equipped) in your trunk! Check the tire pressure on the spare, and, if needed, add air so it is ready to go in the event you get a flat and need it to get you home. The proper tire pressure to inflate to will be indicated on the spare tire or in your owner’s manual.
3 | Water From Down Under
Lots of road grime, mud, and salt linger on your vehicle’s underbody after a messy, brutal winter. The easiest way to give the underbody a thorough rinse is to go to an automated touchless car wash. Purchase a package (or use your loyalty points) that includes an “underbody spray.” Run through the car wash at least once if not more often this spring to ensure a thorough clean underneath. This is an important practice because excessive dirt and mud lingering in the nooks and crannies of the underbody can trap moisture, which leads to premature rust. In fact, rust tends to accelerate in warmer, humid temperatures as opposed to colder temperatures.
4 | Jewel That Paint
Give your paintwork a spa day as well to thoroughly clean off residue and prepare the clearcoat for the upcoming hot season. Wash the car thoroughly (by hand) with a soap specific for automotive paint finishes (DO NOT use dish soap or laundry detergent!), and apply a coating of wax. Waxing is particularly important for protecting the paint from harsh summer UV rays that could otherwise fade the paint or thin out the protective clearcoat.
For a deeper, professional-grade shine, take your ride to a professional detailer, and buy a multi-step beautifying package that includes the use of a clay bar to remove surface contaminants you cannot see, along with a service called a high-speed polish to remove swirls, followed by a coat of wax to give a like-new shine.
5 | Cool Runnings
Turn on your air conditioner this spring. You should feel the engine bog for a split second and hear something under your hood turn on (that’s your AC compressor firing up) when you push the AC button, and feel cool air coming out of the vents within five minutes. Let the AC run for at least twenty minutes while you’re driving to push out any moisture from the vents and to let the AC refrigerant flow through the system.
The reason why you should run your AC now is because, if you find that it isn’t working, getting it addressed now means that you don’t suffer when the heat comes. As for engine cooling, most new vehicles today use extended-life engine coolant that doesn’t require replacement until well past 120,000km. Ask to have the engine coolant level and boiling point inspected anyways, along with all belts and hoses. If anything is suspect, fix or replace the parts now for peace of mind in the summer.
6 | Breathe Clean Air Inside
Check your interior cabin air filter and replace it before the summer season. This will allow you to get maximum air flow when running the AC and breathe cleaner air inside, particularly during the spring season when there is more pollen in the air. Most filters are located behind the glove box, and can be easily replaced on your own by referring to your owner’s manual, or finding a YouTube video specific to your vehicle.
7 | Get Salty With Salt Stains
Don’t procrastinate. Clean the heavy salt stains from your carpeting and remove any lingering moisture to avoid unpleasant smells and rust underneath the carpeting. This is a job best left for professionals because they have specialized equipment and chemicals to remove baked-in salt stains. If you want to do it yourself, there are salt stain removal products you can buy. Use a product with a coarse brush, as well as a little bit of boiling water to soften the hardened white stains, and finish off with a wet vacuum to get the residue out. If you haven’t already, invest in fitted high-walled floor liners such as those made by Weathertech and Husky to minimize salt stains and slush spillover for next winter.
William Ha is a Toronto-based automotive industry professional, specializing in dealership customer experience and vehicle maintenance.