With winter in your rearview mirror, it’s time to start thinking about how to transition your car into spring. These repair tips are meant to complement a preventative maintenance schedule, and we recommend taking your car to the shop for a simple checkup each time the seasons change.
By inspecting your vehicle and making a few minor adjustments, you’ll be pampering your car with some simple spring cleaning – and you’ll be aware of what to tell your mechanic once you visit the shop.
- Check your engine air filter, cabin air filter, and cooling system
Engine air filters
Imagine covering your mouth with a thick, dirty cloth as you run. You would get a lot less oxygen and probably wouldn’t perform as well, tiring out quickly. The same thing happens to your car. Unclean engine air filters force your engine to work harder and eat up more gas.
Here in the Texas Panhandle, engine air filters need to be changed relatively often since we have so much dust in the air. While a clogged air filter typically does not cause serious engine damage, a torn air filter allows unfiltered air into the engine, which wreaks havoc on the engine since dirt isn’t exactly a lubricant.
If your engine air filter is not changed often, the electronic components that manage the engine’s fuel system can become damaged. This means the computer will receive erroneous data and will not adjust the fuel mixture properly, causing fuel mileage and performance problems.
Cabin air filters
Whereas clean cabin air filters ensure you get nice, filtered air in the right volume, clogged air filters reduce the amount of air coming into the car for heating and AC. The heater and AC will also not work as well. And if your air filter tears, you will breathe the full fury of pollutants from cars’ tail pipes and industrial activity.
Consider purchasing an activated carbon air filter, which absorbs the fumes from cars’ tail pipes and removes allergens – so no more holding your breath when you drive behind a big truck. Some cars come equipped with these carbon impregnated paper filters, but many others aren’t so fortunate. Then there are vehicles that have both plain paper filters and carbon impregnated filters so the big junk gets filtered out first, followed by the fumes.
Turn on your AC to make sure it’s functioning properly, and then test your climate control. The climate control system is sometimes called the heater, ventilation, & air conditioning system (HVAC). And don’t think that you don’t need to check your AC after winter because you haven’t been using it. During the winter, your car actually uses AC to dry the air so your windshield doesn’t fog up. As such, your AC should be checked periodically throughout the year, no matter what season it is.
- Check your belts and hoses
A good rule of thumb is to replace your belts and hoses every four years. As spring starts, inspect your fan belt (the serpentine belt that drives all accessory motors, including the power brakes and power steering pumps). Examine the grooved side of the belt for cracks and fraying. If the belt has 10 cracks per inch then it needs to be replaced.
Pull on your belts – if they’re loose, bring your car to the shop. When the engine is warm, give the radiator hose a gentle squeeze. If you smell coolant, find leaks, or feel that your hose is overly soft, it’s time to have your cooling system checked out.
- Know when to change your oil
During the winter acid builds up in motor oil, especially when you don’t drive your car for a long time. This acid build-up dirties your oil, wearing out engine parts faster. Thus, it’s vital for the longevity of your car to get a timely oil change. Don’t wait things out thinking it’s no big deal – we’ve had people come to us who have driven 15,000 miles without an oil change, forcing us to scrape dirty sludge out of the oil pan.
In the winter, lightweight oils help the engine crank over better, but getting into spring and summer heavier weight oils are easier on your engine. Why? Old conventional motor oils only had one viscosity, and would thin out when heated. In the winter, the oil would become too thick, so the pumps couldn’t lubricate the engine properly. In the summer, the oil would break down too quickly in the heat.
Luckily, these days you have a choice of what kind of oil to put in your car. Newer engines run at higher temperatures, so oil weight really matters if you have a modern car. Consult your owner’s manual to see what oil weight you need.
Aardvark Tip: There is no such thing as “lifetime” transmission fluid. If a product advertises this, just remember that “lifetime” means for the life of the fluid, not for your lifetime. We recommend transmission oil be changed every 80,000 miles.
4. Make sure your antifreeze is in good shape
Did you know your engine coolant, or antifreeze, can conduct electricity? As you can imagine, this spells bad news for everything under the hood. As your antifreeze ages, the freeze protection remains, but the anti-corrosion protection starts degrading. So the older your antifreeze, the more it conducts electricity in the cooling system, eroding metal and plastic. Your coolant will erode the radiator, engine, and hoses, causing the whole system stress. So make sure you change your antifreeze every couple of years!
Since the engine cooling system can also affect the HVAC system, you should inspect your engine cooling system and then check the antifreeze.
Aardvark Tip: Just because your antifreeze looks clean doesn’t mean it’s in good condition. Only your shop technician will know if it’s past its expiration date.
Tires should be checked for proper inflation as per the sticker on your car’s door, body post, or owner’s manual every few weeks. Proper tire pressure gives you better fuel economy as well as longer-lasting tires.
Good tread depth is important for better traction and stability in rainy conditions as well as in snow. When there is a possibility of ice forming, slow down to safely arrive at your destination.
- Change spark plugs
With vehicle technology ever evolving, spark plugs on today’s cars can last 100,000 miles. While 100,000 miles is the standard point as per car manufacturer at which you should replace your spark plugs, you may have to change them out sooner if you are experiencing performance problems. Aardvark recommends changing by 80,000 as a maintenance item.
Performance issues like bad gas mileage and slow pickup can indicate a poor spark plug. Inspect the spark plugs insulator and electrode for damage. Since mechanical problems in the engine (such as the piston rings wearing out, letting oil in) can deter a spark plugs performance, removing and checking the plugs can let you know if they need replacement.
For more car tips and to get more info on Aardvark Automotive, check out our website.