Winter is shifting toward spring in much of the US, and that means it's time to get your car ready for warmer weather.
Here are five simple things you can do to make sure you have a happy season of motoring — and make your car feel all shiny and new at the same time.
1.) Wash Off Your Car & Get Detailed
This is a deep-dish cleaning of the vehicle, inside and out. It depends on the type of car or truck you own, and how old it is, but for newer vehicles, it's worth it.
Spring is the ideal time to do it. For $100 to $200, a detailer will get down and dirty with the interior, bring you car back as close as possible to showroom condition and cleanliness; this means vacuuming, shampooing, treating leather and plastic surfaces, and extracting all the ground in gunk from hard-to-reach places.
Outside, a thorough washing will be accompanied by waxing, buffing, polishing, and a tire treatment. After dealing with snow, ice, slush, and road salt for three or fours months, your newly detailed car will thank you.
2.) Touch Up Paint - Get Dings & Dents Repaired.
This doesn't always mean a trip to the body shop. You can buy small bottles of automotive paint to fill in small scrapes and scratches. It isn't a professional job, but it will at least prevent the enemy of sheet metal — rust — from gaining a foothold.
More substantial body damage does entail a visit to the body shop, and then things start to get pricey. But if you want to keep your car in good cosmetic condition, you will want to spend the money. Selling your vehicle later in a person-to-person transaction, usually more lucrative than selling to a dealer or trading in, generally means that a buyer will pay top dollar only for a car that looks good.
3.) Check Your Oil
Modern vehicles perform so well that they don't need oil changes as frequently as cars did in the past.
But that doesn't mean they never need oil changes. And the shift of seasons is always a fine time to to make sure your engine oil is up to snuff. If you're running low, it could be an indication that there's a more significant problem with your motor.
You can also use the change of seasons as a guide to automatic oil changes. I change my oil twice a year. That's less often than recommended, given 10-15,000 miles of annual driving, but I've never had a problem (plus, some car makers recommend oil changes less frequently than the traditional 3,000 miles).
So the math goes like this: you change oil when winter slips into spring, and then six months later, as summer morphs into fall.
4.) Make sure your tires are in good shape.
Early spring is a good time to examine your tires, particularly if you switch from snow tires back to regular rubber. Worn tires are dangerous and can reduce fuel economy. Follow the tire manufacturer's guidelines for tread wear.
You should also check that your tires are properly inflated — and that your spare tires also has enough air.
This is a good time of year to have your tires rotated and balanced, as well, so that they wear evenly and you get the maximum lifespan from each tire.
And while you're at it, you should examine your brake pads and rotors, to ensure that they don't need to be replaced.
5.) Update your car's emergency kit — because you never know, and "be prepared" isn't just for Boy Scouts.
Every car should have an emergency kit. You'll need emergency supplies, such as water and a first-aid kit. You'll also need tools and everything you might require to change a tire on a dark, rainy night (don't forget the rain jacket). Flashlight batteries should be changed for fresh ones.
More items can be added, from hand-crank radios to warm clothing, depending on where you live and how far off the beaten path you tend to drive.
You can also take the winter-to-spring changeover to double check your roadside-assistance options. A lot of folks go with AAA, but many insurance companies also offer the services as part of your package.
6.) Buy A New Set Of Floor Mats. Or replace your old ones with high-tech ones.
Winter is hard on floors mats, especially the conventional type that are essentially hunks of carpet.
Spring is always a good time to evaluate the condition of your existing floor mats and decide if it's time to replace them.
Or upgrade. Many drivers have switched from old-school mats to custom-fitted version made of synthetic materials or rubber. These are easier to clear and don't allow dirt, mud, and water to touch your car's carpeting.
WeatherTech make the best-known "modern" floor mats. They can be expensive, but a lot of car owners swear by them.
7.) Clean Out The Glove Department & Make Sure All The Right Documents Are In There.
People can tend to allow lots of ... well, stuff to accumulate in their cars. Nowhere is this more evident than in the glove compartment.
Spring is a good time to get in there and remove all the collected papers, junk, and so on of the previous six months.
It's also a good time to make sure that the glove box essentials are in place. You should have a tire-pressure gauge (a simple digital on won't cost more than $10), your owners manual, and your registration and insurance card.
I also like to keep a card from my mechanic, from the dealership where I bought the vehicle, plus any receipts or special offers for car washes, oil changes, or tire replacement.
And ... why not keep some actual gloves in there? Specifically, a pair of work gloves to use to tires changes, checking under the hood, digging leaves out from under the hood, and so on.
Lastly, make sure your registration & a copy of your insurance cards are in there. If your card is expired or worn down, call us and we can get you a new copy.