Finally! Signs of spring are in the air: the weather is warming, car windows are opening up, convertible tops are coming down, construction barrels are everywhere. And while the coronavirus is still a concern, folks are venturing out a bit more. Now that winter is in the rearview mirror, it is time to make sure your car is ready for the road.
Many people who have been under stay-at-home orders have taken the opportunity to do some extra spring cleaning around the house. You can tell because the heaps of garbage at the end of driveways have doubled in size, and waste management companies have asked their customers to refrain from hauling out so much trash. Whether or not you find yourself with extra time on your hands during the current national crisis, now is prime time to do some spring cleaning for your car as well, before the really warm weather hits.
Spring cleaning for your car can mean anything from a wash and wax to taking it in for an oil change. Here are some suggestions to care for your car now that spring has arrived.
Shake Off the Salt
You might be one who appreciates the beauty of winter: snow hanging on tree limbs and icicles dangling from rooftops. Or you might have a less-favorable sentiment. Either way, winter can be hard on your car, truck, or SUV. That is especially true in areas that treat the roadways with salt or calcium chloride, both of which are highly corrosive to the metal on your vehicle. Both of which cling to your car and cake up every crevice they can find. Winter snow, sludge, and salt lead to one really bad condition: rust!
But because of the cold, many drivers do not get their cars washed nearly enough in winter to deal effectively with those and other contaminants. Now that spring has arrived, at the very least you should make a concerted effort to rid your car of contaminants.
That starts with regular washing. Now that the weather is nice, you could choose to wash your car yourself in the driveway, although a soft-touch automatic car wash is a far more convenient (and, in most cases, less damaging) option. A clean car prevents environmental contaminants and corrosive compounds from harming your paint, panels, and mechanical components.
Keeping the exterior of your car clean is a lot easier if you also keep it coated with a polymer sealant, wax, or both. A quality wax, such as one containing Carnauba, adds to the shine of your paint finish, repels water (causes it to bead up and run off), and allows dirt and debris to be easily rinsed off. Waxes and sealants also prevent environmental contaminants like acid rain, bird droppings, hard water spots, and sap from sticking or becoming embedded in the paint. While nothing compares to a careful hand-applied wax (or sealant) finish, automatic car wash extras (such as Armor All ® Extreme Shine Wax) serve to add an extra layer of protection in between hand-wax applications.
Often overlooked is the underside of a vehicle. Far more attention is paid to the topside, to the shiny paint. (Nobody ever writes “wash me” in the dirt underneath a car). And yet, the underbody is where the salt and sludge build up the most. Right where the mechanical components live that carry you and your passengers and your cargo. The underside of your vehicle is highly susceptible to corrosion, and yet it is the closest region of your vehicle to the contaminants. Washing underneath your car is essential all year long; now is a good time to make sure the salt is gone from underneath before the heat and humidity of summer wreak even more havoc. Naturally, the easiest way to do that is at an automatic car wash.
Sweep Out the Cobwebs
That same salt does not tend to stay outside your car either. All winter long, as you climb in and out of the driver’s seat, you track saltwater onto the carpet. You can see it when the carpet is dry; it looks like a white powder but clings to the carpet and refuses to come clean. At the same time, with the windows closed for the cold season, odors tend to accumulate on the inside. And who has the time or the inclination to vacuum and wash the interior when it is twenty degrees outside?
Now that spring is here, it is time for a spring cleaning of the interior as well as the exterior. Carpets need vacuuming, crevices need blowing out, sensitive surfaces need dusting and washing, and your seats need shampooing. Of course, shampoo is for the carpet as well. Each surface in your car – the dashboard, door panels, digital display panel, leather, cloth, headliner, carpet, glass, and more – require not only individualized care, but special chemicals, just as your wheels, tires, engine compartment, and paint require separate treatment. And to help remove (and prevent) odors, you should probably replace the cabin air filter that cleans the air inside your car.
Mind the Mechanicals
The exterior and interior are not the only items that need a good spring cleaning. Winter is an excellent time to ignore the mechanical side of your car too. As many as five million brake jobs are put off each year, and that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to delayed or ignored vehicle maintenance procedures, the most common of which are delayed oil changes, tire changes, and brake service.
Chances are, even if you have kept up religiously with vehicle maintenance, there is something that still needs doing right now: a new set of tires, brake system maintenance (or at least brake pad replacement), or an oil and oil filter change. Check your vehicle owner’s manual or maintenance schedule for the manufacturer’s recommendations. A list of common routine maintenance items might include:
- Oil and filter change
- Chassis lubrication
- Wiper blades and washer solvent
- Tire pressure check, inflation, and rotation
- Lighting inspection
- Battery check and cleaning
- Serpentine and timing belts
- Exhaust system
- Steering and suspension systems
- Fuel filter
- Brake fluid
- Transmission fluid
- Power steering fluid
- Engine coolant and hoses
- And more…
More urgent is the presence of any dashboard warning lights. A maintenance light means it is likely that one or more of the above items need to be tended to. A check engine light means there is something wrong with a vehicle system and requires a scan with a computer to aid in the diagnosis of the problem.
Pay for a Professional
Because your car represents a significant investment (the average price of a new car in the US is approaching $40K), it pays to provide the best care possible. Cheap brake service can be costly. Lifting your car off the ground to change the oil or rotate the tires can be dangerous if not done properly. Even applying wax to your paint or cleaning your dashboard can cause damage if not done carefully.
Sometimes (oftentimes) it pays to pay a professional to take care of your car. For instance, a professional detailer not only has the tools and training to remove embedded contaminants from the paint surface that do not come off when washing (with a clay bar treatment) or to restore the luster to your paint when it starts to fade (by sanding and machine buffing), but also has dozens of products to get the job done. The cost of the tools and materials to complete a basic car detailing job is far more than the cost of the service. A professional detailing service will help to correct and protect your paint and other vehicle surfaces all summer long.
Same goes for mechanical services. What were once simple maintenance procedures, years ago when cars were less complex, are now best left to the pros. A complete brake job entails far more than simply slapping on a pair of brake pads. Replacing a serpentine belt (not to mention a timing belt) is tricky, especially when you can’t even see it in the engine compartment. Changing your air filter is not usually very difficult, nor is replacing the cabin air filter. You can add windshield washer solvent with no problem. But without significant amounts of training and equipment, you should probably leave most vehicle maintenance and repairs to those who are qualified and licensed to do them.
During the winter months, a lot can happen to your car. When it is bitter cold outside and your windows are rolled up, it is easy to ignore seemingly little issues, like squealing brakes or a rattle in the suspension. With your windows open, you have to work really hard to ignore those noises – or you have to turn up the stereo really loud. Now that spring has arrived, begin the process of spring cleaning for your car – take it in for an oil change and inspection, or for a wash and wax. Or schedule a professional detailing service. Get your car ready for the road and make an investment in your investment.
Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright
This article is intended only as a general guidance document and relying on its material is at your sole risk. By using this general guidance document, you agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash and its affiliates from and against any and all claims, damages, costs, and expenses, including attorneys’ fees, arising from or related to your use of this guidance document. To the extent fully permissible under applicable law, Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the information, content, or materials included in this document. This reservation of rights is intended to be only as broad and inclusive as is permitted by the laws of your State of residence