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After-Winter Car Care

Every region has its version of spring. Spring time usually means spring cleaning, a “fresh” start, out with the old in with the new. Cleaning the house, cleaning the car, an cleaning the dust of the bikes in the garage. Many of us just look forward to that day when they instinctively know that the last severe winter storm has come and gone. But that doesn't mean there won't be a late freeze or surprise snow flurry. It does mean, however, that these hardy souls can start attending to their cars after a too-long winter, a process shared by everyone in varying degrees. Cleaning Up As you're putting those heavy coats back into mothballs, it makes sense to do a little post-winter clean up on your vehicle. After all, it takes the brunt of winter's misery, whether in the form of torrential downpours, freezing rain, or mountains of snow. Tires First, tend to your tires, even if you drive on what the industry refers to as "all season" tires. Heavy, consistent snow and ice require winter tires, which absolutely should be replaced with the non-winter variety. Winter tires are more expensive than standard tires and are designed with special tread for added traction in icy and snow-packed conditions. Heavily treaded tires wear out faster and should be saved for next winter. If you drive on all season radials, this is the time to rotate them (back to front). The drive wheels will wear more quickly, especially under winter driving conditions. By rotating them seasonally, you extend the life of the set. Blades Wiper blades also take a severe beating. Cold temperatures are hard on rubber compounds, and they also get bombarded with dirt-laden slush kicked up by traffic. This slush often carries with it corrosive salt used to melt road ice, which also does a number on your blades. Early spring is a good time to check and replace them if necessary. Replenish your windshield fluid as well since there's a good chance winter's dirt has exhausted the reservoir. Underbody Next, clean your vehicle's underbody. There's no magic cleaning solution that will get rid of the corrosive salt build-up for those who live in heavy winter urban areas. The best tool is a high-pressure sprayer. Pay special attention to the area around the front and rear bumpers. Rust Check Once you've thoroughly sprayed the underbody, check for signs of embryonic rust (small pits and bubbles) and take the necessary steps to stop any small rust spots from eating away at your vehicle. We've all seen those pillars of snow that form around bumpers and wheel wells. That's the most likely place for road salt to begin the erosion process. While you're at it, you might as well wash the whole car. Winter is not conducive to leisurely afternoons spent hosing off your vehicle and chances are it's been a while. Brakes Examine your brakes. Like wipers, brakes take on a bigger role during wintertime and should be checked to ensure that they've survived. Listen for brake noises such as grinding, chatter or squeals. Even if your brakes aren't making any distinctive noises, it's still a good idea to determine the amount of wear on the pads or drums, either by you or your mechanic. We often become accustom to the feel of worn brakes, without realizing what we're used to is a deteriorated ability to stop. Fluids Check all automotive fluids and top off as necessary. Winter driving conditions require your engine to work harder and deplete fluid levels faster. Interior Go over your vehicle interior with a fine-tooth comb. This includes taking out and washing floor liners. Even if you have those nifty, heavy-duty liners, the volume of melted snow that gets tracked into vehicles can often overwhelm even the sturdiest mats. Vacuum and clean the carpets, making sure they are bone dry before you put the liners back in. Since most of us tend to scurry out of the protection of a warm car into the protection of a warm building without taking time to tidy up, there's usually an extra build-up of litter hiding under the seats. Go over interior vinyl with a protective dressing. Car heaters can be as damaging and drying to vinyl as mid-summer sun. Congratulations! You and your vehicle have survived another winter. You can now look forward to months of warm temperatures and snow-free landscapes. Of course, you'll soon have to be preparing for that long hot summer, but that's another story. Mark's Tip!TRY OUT YOUR AIR CONDITIONING –before the warmer weather gets here!