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Get Your Car Back In Shape For Spring

Here’s our eight-step guide to getting your ride ready for spring…

By Casey Williams

Many of us will emerge from winter in far from our best shape. It’s also true for your car, which has been driven in all kinds of bad weather, endured teeth-rattling potholes, and had its climate control system abused. So before hitting the highways this spring, give your car a checkup.

“Now is the time to go to an established service centre to check everything over,” advises car care expert Pam Oakes, owner of Pam’s Motor City in Ft. Meyers, Florida. “Have them check tire condition and pressure, look over the cooling system, and go through their checklist. Having a professional set of eyes looking at your car will provide an idea of repairs you may need going into spring and summer.”

Consider these areas of concerns:

1. Tires
Low pressure can cause a blow-out, diminishes handling and will cost you fuel. Check the sticker in the car’s door jamb for the correct pressures and inflate your tires properly. It is a good idea to rotate tires about every 12,000 kilometres, so do that too. Uneven wear may indicate a wheel alignment is needed.

2. Fluids
Vehicles do not proceed when they’re low on fluids. Drivers often find this out the hard way when the weather warms. Check your coolant level and dipsticks for oil and transmission fluid. Make sure the radiator cap and gas cap seal properly. Confirm the gaskets inside are not brittle; if they are, replace them.

3. Oil and filters
Many cars now use synthetic oil, so the old advice of changing the oil every 4,800 kilometres is somewhat outdated. Consult your owner’s manual to be sure. Use the recommended viscosity for warm weather. Change the oil filter, too. This is also a good time to change the air filter.

4. Climate control
If you like cool air in the summertime, pay attention to your climate control system now. Check the compressor belt for cracks, fraying and wear. Turn on the air conditioner to make sure the compressor comes on and generates cold air. Have the refrigerant checked and, if it’s low, get it recharged.

5. Hoses, belts and blades
All of these deteriorate through use and age, but especially when temperatures vary. With the engine off, pull on the belts to make sure they are tight. When the engine is warm, squeeze the radiator hose. If soft, replace it. Toss wiper blades when they smear or leave streaks.

6. Battery
Batteries work extra hard in the winter. Confirm connections are tight and free from corrosion. Have the charge checked at a qualified auto shop. Be especially careful if the battery is more than two years old.

7. Cooling system
Many experts recommend flushing and filling your cooling system every two years or 38,600 kilometres. Use a radiator flush product to remove rust, grease and other contaminants. Refill with a 50/50 mix of coolant and water.

8. Thorough cleaning
Wash the undercarriage to get rid of salt and sand. Treat the dashboard, seats and carpets with dedicated products. Go ahead and give the exterior a good wax, too. Or have your car professionally detailed as part of your spring ritual.

Keep working out and follow these tips so you’ll be ready to spring into summer clean, fully serviced, and ready for the drives of your dreams.

CASEY WILLIAMS is a contributing writer for He contributes to the New York-based LGBT magazine Metrosource and the Chicago Tribune. He and his husband live in Indianapolis, where Williams contributes videos and reviews to, the area’s PBS/NPR station.

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