Edmunds.com offers 6 ways to spring clean your car to avoid a big maintenance bill and keep you safe before summer travel:
- Check the Tires. Tire pressure changes about 1 pound per square inch for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit change in outside temperature, so it’s important to check tire pressure after weather changes. Check your owner’s manual for the recommended pressure for your tire, and never exceed that. Learn more about proper tire maintenance by reading “Tires: Traffic Safety Tips.”
- Check wiper blades. Your wipers work hard all winter removing dirt and debris, including salt spray. Since the life expectancy of a wiper blade is six months to a year, check that the blades are making full contact with the windshield and have not dried out. Don’t wait for a heavy spring or summer rainstorm to discover your blades aren’t performing properly. Also, refill the wiper fluid reservoir.
- Change the oil and oil filter. Some car manufacturers recommend changing to a heavyweight oil to help the engine perform more efficiently during hotter weather. Your owner’s manual will tell you which grade is best for your car. Change the oil filter each time you change the oil, since it’s obvious that a dirty filter won’t keep the new oil clean. Gather insight on how to change your oil yourself by reading “How to Change Your Oil (The Real Down and Dirty).”
- Change the air filter. The air filter prevents dust and other impurities from getting into the combustion chambers of the cylinders, resulting in wasted gas and weaker engine performance. The time-honored way to check for dirt is to hold the filter up to the light, but since many new filters show light when dirty, or show no light when clean, it is more reliable to change the air filter every six months, and more often in dusty locations. Get the knowledge you need to change your car’s air filter yourself by reading “How to Change Your Car’s Filters.”
- Flush and fill your cooling system. This is cheap insurance against engine failure. The Car Care Council recommends flushing every two years, or 24,000 miles for most vehicles. Simply draining your radiator is not enough; you need to flush the system with a radiator flush product, not just plain water, to remove stubborn rust, grease and sediment. Then, refill with a 50/50 mixture of coolant and water. (If you live in a more severe climate, increase the percentage of coolant to about 70.) Find out more by reading “How to Maintain Your Vehicle’s Cooling System.”
- Check the radiator and gas caps. A snug radiator cap helps raise the cooling system pressure, giving added protection against boil-overs. Radiator caps don’t last forever, so replace yours whenever you flush the cooling system. Pressure recommendations vary, so get the right cap for your vehicle model. With gas at record prices, be sure there’s a tight seal on the gas cap, too, to prevent that high-priced octane from vaporizing. Nearly 20 percent of vehicles have gas caps that are damaged, loose or missing altogether, wasting some 147 million gallons of gas every year.