Under The Hood

Get Your Car Ready For Spring: Top 10 Tips

Start your engines because spring is here.

Roll up the cover, fire up and drive off into the sunset.

Or… wait?

Stop a second. A quick check before bringing back the road rage can do no harm, and let's face it, those tires probably* need to be pumped up.

Take a quick pre-flight walk around. A visual check on key mechanical components, followed by some steady poking, prodding and testing is definitely due if your car has been garaged over the winter.

Here are 10 Spring tune-up tips to ceremoniously wake your vehicle from its winter slumber!

1. Spring Cleaning

If your vehicle has been sitting in the garage covered in months of dust and grime, a thorough wash is the best place to start.

Start with exteriors and give your interiors a through vacuum clean-up. Change the floormats and lather leather interiors if they have accumulated dust. A dash of wax is a great idea and offers good protection from the spring showers.

2. Inspect Exterior

Once you have all the dust and dirt off the vehicle, its time for a thorough walk-around inspection of the exterior. Follow these simple steps :

Þ Open and close each door, the windows, the hood, and the trunk. With a convertible, try the doors and windows with both the roof up and down.

Þ Examines all exterior lights, lenses, and reflectors including headlights (daytime, nighttime and high beams), hazard lights, fog lights, brake lights, the license plate light, turn signals, and back-up lights. Replace them if they are cracked, missing or filled with moisture

Þ Study the mirrors for cracks and clear vision

3. Examine Tires

Start with checking your tire for wear, bulges, cracks or uneven oxidation in the sidewalls or between the treads.

The cold can make the air pressure drop drastically even while in storage. Inspect the tire pressure and air up the tire to the recommended pressure level. Examine the tire alignment and suspension before embarking on the initial drive of the season.

4. Replace And Refill Fluids

The rule of thumb while taking your car out of winter storage is to replace all fluids including radiator coolant, power steering fluid, brake and transmission fluid, and fuel. Refill and replenish them if they have been emptied prior to storage.

Drain any residual gas in the tank.

Change the air filter cover during the fuel drain and liberally spray some engine starter fluid into the mouth of the carburetors to bring your sleep beauty back to life without any hiccups. Add fuel stabilizers or octane boosters to curb initial rough running issues, and add life to your engine.

Fresh oil is the best insurance for your engine. Check the oil level using the dipstick before ignition. If the vehicles been in storage for 90+ days, oil change is highly recommended. A quick 30-minute drive before the oil change will have it splashing through the engine, loosening any remaining deposits and flushing them out.

5. Replace Windshield Wiper Blades

Wiper blades aren’t built to provide years of use, and usually the spring-tune up is your cue to invest in a new pair. If your current pair of blades are no longer making contact with your windshield across its length, it's definitely time for a change. Also, do not forget to replace your winter wiper blades with conventional blades if you had made the switch with the onset of winter. Check the wiper fluid reservoir and replenish if necessary with an all season windshield washer fluid.

New wiper designs such as beam blades which do not have any external frames but supported by an internal steel skeleton are becoming increasingly popular. Also known as bracketless blades, they are reported to exercise more uniform pressure on today's curved windshields.

6. Batteries

Cranking the cold engine on a weak battery is a rookie mistake – it can cost you dearly!

Always test the level of charge, voltage output and the battery’s capacity for accumulating charge before turning ON the ignition.

Check the cables and terminals of the battery for corrosion or oxidation. Often the copper in the battery cables loses its conductive properties as the car sits in storage, so care must be taken to clean the cables thoroughly before reinstallation. Replace cables the cables if necessary.

If the battery was disconnected, removed and stored apart in a moisture-free location, reinstallation is only a simple process. Clean the battery posts and terminal with baking soda and water before recharging to remove rusts and oxidants.

However, if your vehicle requires that the battery remains connected all times to maintain on-board memory, factory settings and configurations, invest in a battery maintainer. The battery maintainer supplies a small trickle of electricity to your batteries over the long period of time in storage to counteract self-discharge.

7. Check the brakes

Begin with a brake check and inspect the operation of all wheels independently. Brake pedals must clamp down smoothly on application and any issues with the braking system must be immediately investigated and remedied.

Drain, flush and refill the brake fluid to clean the braking system after the winter hiatus.

8. Test Air Conditioning

Do not wait for the temperatures to climb to 80s to have your air conditioning examined.

Blast on your air conditioning and observe the time it takes to cool down the interior- this should give you a good guess of the A/C health. Since vehicle's air conditioning has not been in use over the winter, it is recommended to check the refrigerant levels and refill, if running low.

Breathe it in! - Take note of any funky odors coming out from the conditioning unit. Service the air conditioning system if odors continue to persist after 15 minutes.

Inspect the conditioning unit for losing drive belts, clogged condensers and filters, and coolant leaks. Clogged air filters lead to under-performance of the heating and cooling system, weakened airflow from the cabin vents, and impact engine performance in the long run.

9. Look Underneath

Often overlooked, the undercarriage can be the ground zero for all your trouble while bringing your car back from storage. It often tells you the straightforward story of your car’s journey and house important parts like front and rear axles, the muffler, brake lines, exhaust, and transmission system.

Slide under with a high-quality flashlight and visually inspect the floor pans, subframe, wheel wells, and the entire undercarriage. A grimy undercarriage can cause serious transmission issues as the vehicle fails to disperse heat effectively causing overheating problems. It leads to faster corrosion and irreversible damage to expensive internal components. A thorough wash and rub of the undercarriage, clearing it of any debris or dust collected in storage, can bring new life to your car in the spring.

While underneath, also, examine the seals of all suspension components for wear and tear, and check the lubrication on the moving parts.

10. Check under the hood

It is a folly to only pay attention to the things you can see but not to pay due attention to components that are hidden. Under the hood lies a spaghetti bowl of spark plug wires, electric wire connections, engine belts, and radiator hoses.

Inspect the car’s spark plugs before turning on the ignition. If the car has been sitting idle for more than three months, it is recommended to replace the spark plug- especially if it looks white or oily!

Crank the engine without the plug in place to allow the oil to lubricate the walls and prime the pumps prior to ignition. Spraying engine starter fluid into the carburetor can revive the engines pulled from storage and coax it smoothly into life.

Examine the hoses and belts for any damage. With the ignition off, stretch the belts to ensure they are tight and squeeze the radiator hose. If the hose is soft, replace it immediately. A failure with the belt and hose system can affect the electrical system, air conditioning, and power steering and the cooling system

Bringing your car out of storage is not a trivial undertaking, but following these simple steps can prolong the life of your vehicle and guarantee performance. Whether you’ll be driving across the country or across town, this spring give your vehicle a quick tune-up before you turn the ignition ON!