The cold, unforgiving Canadian winter can wreak havoc on your vehicle as does all the road salt that coats your car’s exterior and engine.
As spring emerges and the snow and ice melt away, you can be forgiven for thinking there’s less to worry about insofar as your car’s performance goes. However, that isn’t the case. Now’s the time to do a little pre-emptive maintenance on your vehicle to avoid more costly repairs that could emerge later.
Here are 11 spring car maintenance tips to keep your car in tip-top shape:
1. Change your oil and oil filter.
Your vehicle requires an oil and oil filter change periodically throughout the year to keep it running efficiently. How often depends on your vehicle and the amount you drive. Oil changes are absolutely necessary to reducing excess dirt and sludge that may build up in the engine.
2. Replenish engine fluids.
Your vehicle has a lot of different types of fluids to keep it operating: transmission fluid, radiator fluid, power steering and brake fluids, and windshield washer fluid. It’s smart to check these levels periodically and top them up or have them flushed and replaced as per your owner’s manual when required.
3. Replace the wiper blades.
At least twice a year, get new windshield wiper blades. As a rule of thumb, whenever you swap your all-season tires for winter tires, replace the wiper blades too so you always have a clear view of the road in any season.
4. Check the battery.
Let’s face it: winter is hard on all parts of your car. It can be particularly tough on your vehicle’s battery. Most car batteries last for up to five years. Take a peek at yours. If you spot corrosion around the battery’s connection points or see cracks on the top or side of it, that may be a clue it’s time to swap it out for a new one.
5. Fix cracks in the windshield.
Chips or cracks in your windshield can lead to bigger issues if you neglect to get them repaired. A cracked windshield might compromise your vehicle’s structural integrity, and it can obstruct your view of the road, especially if it spreads. Moreover, a police officer may ticket you for having a cracked windshield, which includes a fine of $85 in Ontario, and up to $500(!) in Alberta.
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6. Check the brakes.
A word to the wise: winter driving conditions can damage your vehicle’s brakes, which includes pads, shoes, and rotors. Have a professional auto technician thoroughly inspect your braking system to clean out the grit and grime and ensure no parts need replacing. That last thing you want are faulty brakes that lead to a collision.
7. Lubricate the engine’s chassis parts.
Unless you’re a do-it-yourself mechanic who enjoys tinkering with a vehicle, has the tools, and understands the safety procedures involved, you might want to see a professional auto technician about lubricating your engine’s chassis parts. It also depends on your vehicle. There was a time when chassis lubrication was routinely done during an oil and filter change, but newer cars and trucks may not require it (see the vehicle owner’s manual to find out). Nevertheless, there’s a broad range of components that require lubrication such as steering and universal joints.
8. Check engine belts and hoses.
Sometimes you need to have the engine belts and hoses replaced on your vehicle. A leaky coolant hose can lead to an overheated engine. If a belt turning the water pump snaps, your car’s cooling system won’t work. Eyeball belts and look for cracks or glazing, which can cause a belt to slip or crack. If you hear your engine making a high-pitched whine or squeal, it may be a sign of a worn belt that’s losing its tension.
9. Check air and fuel filters.
There are a few filters in your vehicle that require replacing from time to time such as the engine air filter, the air filter for the passenger cabin, as well as the fuel filter. Dirty air filters reduce the amount of air flowing through the engine and makes it work harder, meaning it will burn more fuel. The cabin air filter iscreens out pollen, dust, and other airborne debris inside the vehicle. Getting it replaced if needed will help you and your passengers breathe easier. Meanwhile, a dirty fuel filter will also reduce fuel-efficiency and it won’t protect the vehicle’s fuel pump and injectors. In general, its recommended to replace the fuel filter annually.
10. Check your tire pressure.
By now, you should have swapped your winter tires for all-seasons. Keep tabs on your vehicle’s tire pressure regularly and ensure they’re inflated to the level listed in your owner’s manual. Tires that are not properly inflated can cause you to burn more fuel and possibly lead to a flat or reduced traction when you drive.
11. Make sure exterior lights are working.
Flick on your vehicle’s lighting system, walk around your car, and make sure there are no burnt-out headlights, signal lights, reverse or brake lights. If there are, get them replaced as soon as possible.
Not only will regular maintenance help keep your vehicle roadworthy and extend its life, but it can also help you avoid breakdowns, or worse, an accident. Treat your wheels with care to avoid such risks. It’s one way to help steer clear of having to file a claim which can possibly affect your car insurance premium at renewal.