Car Care: Give Your Car Its Spring Physical
Today’s cars and trucks last longer than ever. They are generally more trouble-free than ever before, also, and the best way to keep them that way is the automotive equivalent of a physical. Just as your doctor checks over your systems and structure, your dealership’s service department will look over your vehicle with expert eyes.
Don’t wait until a “Service Engine Soon” warning pops up on the instrument panel or a tire blows out. By then, it may be too late to avoid an expensive repair or considerable inconvenience. Prevent problems on the road with a spring checkup. Here are some items that should be included.
Electrical System: Your car’s battery and alternator should be checked to be sure the charging system is up to snuff, the battery is within its serviceable lifespan and has enough reserve, and all cables and connections are clean, tight, and corrosion-free. Belts should also be checked for tightness, cracks and excessive wear, as a broken belt will stop you in your tracks.
Tires and Wheels: Whack a few killer potholes lately? Modern tires are also better than ever before, but you need to keep an eye out for problems that can lead to tire failure. Have a trained technician examine your tires for cuts in the tread or sidewalls, bulges, bubbles, dry rot, signs of belt separation or other problems that could leave you stranded, and make sure tires are properly inflated. Wheel damage is common, too, so be sure to include them in the inspection.
Suspension and Alignment: At the same time your tires and wheels are inspected, your suspension and wheel alignment should also be examined. Shock absorbers can fail, steering components can bend or become loose, and bushings can wear out. Winter conditions can be hard on the parts designed to support you, as can rough roads or frequent trips into the back country. For predictable handling, even tire wear and maximum fuel efficiency, it’s important that all four wheels––not just the drive wheels–– are properly aligned. If you can’t remember the last time you had it done, now is the time to have an alignment performed. Your tires will last longer and you’ll avoid spending the extra money at the pump that can result from misaligned wheels.
Fluid Levels and Filters: Because today’s cars can click off tens of thousands of kilometers without problems, it can be easy to forget about checking, topping off and replacing its vital fluids. Coolant and brake fluid both have finite lifespans and require replacement, as indicated in your owner’s manual. Your dealership’s technicians have special tools to check the age and protection level of the engine coolant, and they’ll also have the coolant specified by the manufacturer for use in your car. Brake fluid needs attention as well, and your routine driving conditions––frequent towing, heavy stop-and-go driving, etc.––can make it necessary to have these systems serviced more frequently than indicated in the manufacturer’s basic schedule.
Spring is a great time to treat your car to an oil and filter change. Whether it’s hot or cold where you live, idling a lot, sub-zero temperatures or excessively hot conditions can all degrade engine oil, leaving delicate components more vulnerable to premature wear and corrosion. Moisture and acids can build up in the oil, as well, so getting it changed in the spring ensures proper protection. Don’t forget to have the engine’s air filter and, if equipped, the cabin air filter checked and replaced if needed. Also remember that necessary chassis lubrication is part of the usual “L.O.F.,” or “Lube, Oil, Filter,” service. Those parts are especially susceptible to wear and corrosion, whether salt is used on the roads where you live or not. Check the maintenance schedule for your vehicle to make sure that you are up-to-date with all the manufacturer’s recommended services.
As the seasons change again, it’s a great time to rejuvenate your automobile. Good planning and preventative maintenance can ensure a worry-free summer ahead.