Do-it-yourself spring car cleaning tips
Winter is no friend to your car. Cold temperatures, rough driving conditions, snow, hail, and road salt all conspire against your vehicle.
Spring is the perfect time to clean your car interior and car exterior. So get out your buckets, detergent, towels, and vacuum! These 6 easy spring car maintenance tips will help preserve the paint, finish, and longevity of your ride.
How to Clean a Car
1. Wash & wax your car’s exterior
Road salt is great for traction, but not for vehicles - it can easily corrode your car if not removed. To remove accumulated road salt, dust, and mud (all of which can destroy your car’s paint and finish if allowed to build up), wash your car with a mild detergent and wax it. Applying a coat of wax will protect the paint, add some shine, and help repel water.
Make sure to also flush out your vehicle’s undercarriage. Salt and other chemicals can settle in your shock absorbers, door panels, wheel wells, and other crevices below your vehicle.
2. Clean the drain holes
Cars have drain holes in various locations, including the bottoms of doors and often in the rocker panels and rear quarter panels, designed to let water empty out of the vehicle. If these drainage areas become clogged by built-up debris, water can accumulate and cause corrosion and rust.
Check these drainage areas a few times a year to make sure they are clear of any material. Most drain holes can be easily unblocked with gentle poking from a screwdriver or coat hanger.
3. Clean the car interior, including the trunk
In addition to collecting and throwing out items that have collected in your car over the winter months, consider a more thorough deep cleaning: clean under the floor mats, under the seats, in the crevices. Get out your vacuum and invest in a good quality car upholstery cleaner for your seats and carpets. Remember to shake out, and clean under, the trunk carpet liner as well.
Don’t forget to also check on the condition of your spare (should you have one) and your vehicle emergency kit.
Are your floor mats looking a bit worse for the wear after the winter? Check out our selection and save 20% or more on floor mats for your car or truck!
4. Inspect wiper blades
Now is the time to check your windshield wiper blades for damage caused over the winter. Cold temperatures can cause the blades to become brittle and crack, and the buildup of ice, snow, residue, and frozen wiper fluid on the windshield can result in bent blades and, worse, nicked windshield glass. Replace blades that are bent, nicked, or torn.
On that note, also check to make sure your windshield wiper fluid reservoir is full and keep extra windshield washer solvent in your vehicle.
5. Check under the hood
Look under the hood on a regular basis. Check to make sure all the fluids (oil, coolant, transmission oil, power steering, brake, etc.) are within recommended operating ranges. Clean out fall and winter debris (leaves, twigs, and dirt) that have collected in the engine area and give the area a quick wipe down. Importantly, check belts and hoses to make sure the cold temperatures didn’t render them brittle or break them. If you’re unsure or uncomfortable performing any of these checks yourself, make an appointment with a local mechanic.
6. Clean & check wheels & tires
Cleaning your wheels and tires regularly helps remove the build-up of brake dust and other debris. Tires and wheels take an especially harsh beating over the winter months. Extreme temperatures, potholes, and built-up debris can do a number on the rubber tread.
Select a wheel cleaner that’s appropriate for the type of wheels you have. The cleaner will have a label stating the types of wheels for which it is suited. If you’re unsure what type of wheel you have, use a cleaner that states it is safe to use on all wheels. Water-based and non-acidic cleaners, for instance, can safely be used on all wheel finishes without fear of etching or spotting.
A Few Extra Spring Car Care Tips
Your car may need more than just a cleaning after the winter is over.
Check your tire pressure
Tire pressure is just as important to check in the spring as it is in the winter. During the cold months, tire pressure drops by about 1 pound per 10° of temperature; as a result, you may find yourself putting air in your tires every few weeks. The opposite is true when the weather gets warmer - the air in your tires will expand.
If tire pressure is too high, less of the tire touches the ground. This scenario can lead to poor driveability, irregular tread wear, and poor gas mileage.
Here’s some more info on tire and wheel repair - including what signs of tire wear to be watching.
Cars manufactured after September 1, 2007 are, by law, equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). The TPMS should alert the driver when one or more of the vehicle’s tires is significantly under-inflated.
Check alignment and suspension
Winter is tough on roads, and winter roads (especially the potholes) are tough on vehicles.
The following are just some of the signs that your car needs an alignment:
- The vehicle pulls to one side.
- The steering wheel isn’t straight.
- The vehicle shakes or vibrates.
- The vehicle is making noises (squeaking, creaking, knocking, etc.).
Driving through potholes, hitting large rocks, bumping curbs with your tires when parking - all of these actions can disrupt the components of a vehicle’s suspension. An alignment will restore these parts to their correct positions, thus making the sure that the wheels are properly aligned with the road and ensuring that your car drives straight and handles properly.
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