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When the winter gloom and doom subsides, spring is on its way and summer is just around the corner. As the weather warms and the days get brighter, this is prime time for a new start and a fresh outlook. It is also an excellent opportunity to bring your vehicle out of hibernation, get it primed and looking sharp, and revved up for the coming months.
Whether you have a summer road trip in the works or you will simply be commuting in traffic during the hottest months of the year, your vehicle needs to have some special attention after the harsh winter weather before you hit the road. While your first thought might be the cost of maintenance and whether it is really worth it, there are a number of ways to minimize expense and maximize the value of your vehicle investment.
Captain’s Log: Full Speed Ahead on Record-Keeping
Because vehicles seem to be so much more durable nowadays, many of us forget to check out the basics, thinking it will just somehow last forever. The first step in preparing for the upcoming months is to review your maintenance records, which will determine what you need to look at beyond some of the basic tips below. Keeping these records up-to-date will mean less work and no overlooked issues. In the long run, this detail will help you extend the life of the vehicle while sustaining a higher resale value.
After scanning your maintenance logs and consulting your owner’s manual, it’s time to look at your car – from the engine and tires to the carpets and upholstery – to see how it held up during the cold, wet months.
Looking Good and Keeping it Cool
Spring is a time of rebirth and it may also mean that your car needs a makeover inside and out. The rain, mud, salt buildup from road de-icing, and debris from the winter months, combined with the lack of enthusiasm for cleaning your car during inclement weather, may have left your vehicle looking a little worse for wear.
The best start to the new season is to wash and detail your vehicle inside and out. This involves removing any junk in your trunk as well as other clutter that is lurking under the seats so you can make room for suitcases or ice chests for the spring and summer’s activities. Take the mats out and wash off all the mud and leaves. Wipe down the interior and give the upholstery a steam clean or condition the leather. Waxing the vehicle’s exterior finish is the key to prolonging its body life. This treatment protects it from UV rays and the heat. Also pay particular attention to the undercarriage so that the season’s road grime and build-up can be removed before corrosion starts.
Make sure the air conditioning is in shape for its summer workout. This includes checking the electronic cooling fan motor, Freon levels, and system pressure. Flushing the cooling system will also ensure it provides the maximum comfort. Of course, it won’t matter about how cool the air is blowing from the vents if the vehicle has any mechanical malfunctions.
The Nuts and Bolts of Maintenance
Before you hit the road, be sure that the heart of your vehicle – the engine and transmission – gets a physical. Both play a vital role in your vehicle’s performance level. Looking after them will alleviate stalling, breakdowns, and expensive repair bills that might get in the way of your summer fun. Another benefit to this type of maintenance is that it will help your vehicle achieve better gas mileage, which is very important as the price of fuel rises considerably during the summer months.
Key areas that need careful inspection are spark plugs, air filters, and wires. This is also an opportune time to examine belts, clamps, and hoses. These can all be victims of the cold, wet weather. Since automatic transmissions are subject to fluid breakdown from overheating, it is important to look over this vital part of the vehicle to prevent any failure down the road.
Other areas are often overlooked. Once winter has passed, many people forget about their wiper blades. However, spring can still bring wet weather while other areas can experience summer thunderstorms, so it is better to be prepared by installing new wiper blades. Be sure to top up the washer solvent as well. Tires are also neglected until it is obvious that they need to be replaced. It is better to check each tire for the proper pressure. Identify signs of wear and tear by using a coin slipped into the tread to gauge each tire’s life span. Don’t forget the spare tire! This is also a good time to rotate and balance your tires since this needs to be done about every 6,000 miles.
Many vehicle owners also let regular oil changes pass by. This can be harmful to the vehicle because this lubricating ingredient helps it withstand the heat and pressure of the summer months. Changing the oil will help it maintain the vehicle’s performance as you expose it to long trips or stop-and-go freeway excursions. All bulbs and brakes must be included in the maintenance rundown as these are vital safety features that will help your drive in the spring and summer months. Your vehicle’s suspension might have gone through the ringer due to weathered roads or other hazardous conditions, so it’s best to get this examined for leaks or worn areas.
A Personal Investment that Pays Dividends
Not all vehicle preparation for the spring and summer months needs to be handled by a professional mechanic. Many of the tips mentioned in this article can be accomplished by your own capable hands, saving money, time, and possible aggravation.
Whether you keep your own maintenance records and schedule or you rely on a service partner that provides helpful reminders and a real-time log on each of your vehicles, it is important to regularly invest in your ride. The dividends are longer vehicle life, enhanced performance, and more resale value not to mention that it will look as good as it did the day you drove it out of the showroom.
Get your vehicle ready, roll those windows down, and even put the top down if you can be that lucky. Make the most of the sunshine in a vehicle that is set for the spring and summer elements.