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ROAD & TRAVEL Auto Advice: Prepping Your Vehicle for Spring

Car Maintenance for Spring: Prep Your Vehicle for Sunny Weather

by Tom Kline

Spring is a time of fresh starts and renewals. Extend the “spring cleanup” you give your house and yard to your vehicle. You’ll not only improve its performance and lengthen its life, but you’ll spare yourself time, money and aggravation.

Tasks You Can Perform On Your Own
Whether you do the work yourself or depend on a professional technician, getting your vehicle in shape now will undo any damage caused by winter driving and keep you safe on the road this season.

  • Remove clutter from your car. Vacuum the carpeting; Windex the windows; wipe the headlights with a soft, damp rag. Wash and wax your vehicle to remove winter salt and grime and protect the finish.

  • Cooling system (radiator): flush and refill according to the service manual’s instructions. The level, condition and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. Important — first let the engine cool down before removing the radiator cap.

  • RK service technicians tell us that skipping oil changes can greatly reduce your vehicle’s life. Change the oil and oil filter as specified in your owner’s manual. Be sure to properly dispose of used oil. Replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, etc.) as recommended in your service manual.

  • Check your tires, including the spare. Let them cool down before che cking their pressure. Uneven wear, cupping, vibrations or pulling to one side indicates problems with your tires or suspension system.

  • For safety and convenience, inspect all lights and bulbs, and replace any that are burned out.

  • Replace worn wiper blades and always have plenty of washer solvent on-hand to combat summer’s dust and insects.

  • Read your owner’s manual and follow recommended service schedules for your specific vehicle.

  • Mechanical Services to Schedule with an Auto Technician
    Don’t risk being stranded or getting less than you should from your car at trade in. A little attention to the basics now will improve its appearance and performance for years to come. Now scheduling with your service center is easy, thanks to this handy checklist of items for the spring season.

  • First, find a quality service shop. Look for one that services cars equal in value to your own (their parking lot will speak volumes!). Go inside and check out the equipment in the service bays (for example, some service centers — like the RK Chevrolet service center — have state-of-the-art, computerized equipment. This facilitates faster diagnosis and repair, getting you back on the road quicker.) To find out the qualifications of the technicians, scan the walls for trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work and training classes.

  • Have your technician check the tightness and condition of belts, clamps, and hoses. (RK technicians recommend that belts and hoses be inspected monthly). Worn, glazed or frayed belts should be replaced, as should bulging, rotten or brittle hoses. Clamps should be tightened.

  • Anything that is worn or damaged should be replaced to prevent sudden breakdowns.

  • If your air conditioner system is faulty, have it checked. Cooling inefficiency could be the result of a lack of air flow across the condenser. Have your mechanic make sure the electric cooling fan motor near the condenser is coming on. In fan blade models, the fan should turn very fast. Also have your mechanic check the Freon level and pressure. Air conditioners on older vehicles often contain ozone-depleting chemicals that could be released into the air if the system isn’t working properly.

  • If your engine is experiencing hard starts, rough idling, or stalling, have it fixed. Often times, the trouble stems from basic things like worn spark plugs, a dirty air filter, or bad ignition wires, but if you’re not mechanically inclined whatsoever, it’s best to go straight to a professional. (Taking care of little things early will likely improve your gasoline mileage and prevent minor problems from becoming expensive repairs later on.

  • Don’t neglect your transmission. RK technicians report that routine service can eliminate costly repairs down the road. A manual transmission does not usually experience trouble, except for the clutch, which can be problematic if improperly adjusted or abused. A common problem with automatics is fluid breakdown from overheating. Fluid and filter changes every 24,000 miles can avoid premature transmission failure but few people heed such advice.

  • (Source: RK Auto Group)