Spring is here and that means changes to the weather (hopefully warmer weather), which usually allows us to get outside, work in the yard, clean up the house or garage, or open the pool. It’s the time of year when we start making preparations that will get us through the dog days of summer. Your preparations for the next 6 or so months should really include a little maintenance to one of the most important assets in your life – your car. Most people take their car for granted until it becomes unavailable for some reason. It would be a shame for that reason to be because you neglected some routine seasonal maintenance. We know it can be tough to remember some of this stuff when considering everything else you need to get done this at this time of year. That’s why we’ve come up with this handy car care checklist for routine vehicle maintenance.
Here are a few service items to consider, in no particular order. They’re all very important when you consider everything that the spring and summer entail, such as: added heat, pollen, dust, thunderstorms, and long road trips that could include stop and go traffic and/or trailer pulls.
Change Your Cabin Air Filter
This one might seem minor, but a lot of people didn’t even know that cabin air filters existed until recently. And many people don’t have a clue of how often the cabin air filter needs to be replaced. Many manufacturers will recommend changing the cabin air filter between 15,000 and 30,000 miles for “normal” driving conditions. That’s quite the variance and it doesn’t take into account that many of us live in climates that change four times a year – bringing added heat, pollen, dust, bugs, and air pollution. Driving conditions in these places are more on the extreme side and with extreme driving conditions, you need to opt for service more often. With all that said, we strongly suggest changing the cabin air filter twice per year; once in the Fall and once more in the Spring. If you’re not comfortable or just don’t want to bother with it yourself, make sure to have it inspected and replaced the next time your car is in the shop for an oil change. When you get stuck in a tunnel on a humid 90-degree day in stop and go traffic with a diesel exhaust spewing semi on both of your sides, you’ll be glad you did.
Replace Your Engine Air Filter
Changing your engine air filter is another relatively minor and inexpensive task that can have a significant impact on engine performance and longevity. Most people know a combustion engine requires air to run properly. Most people also know that that air should be as clean as possible and it’s the job of the engine air filter to make sure that’s the case. To neglect the engine air filter means that you’re allowing it to possibly clog with dirt and debris. A clogged air filter will obstruct the air flow into the engine’s combustion chamber, resulting in decreased performance. This is the last thing you’ll want to experience when you’re heading to the theme park with the car full of family. Decreased performance and sluggish acceleration is only the beginning. Let it go too far and you’ll be allowing actual dirt and debris to pass by the mass air flow sensor (possibly damaging it) and into the combustion chamber; which could result in real damage. Real expensive damage! With the driving season upon us, you’re going to want to make sure you get this done. Manufacturers recommend a change anywhere from 12,000 to 25,000 miles for those of us that drive under normal conditions. As we discussed with our recommendation for cabin air filter change intervals – most of us actually drive in more extreme conditions and as such, we should consider a change on the lower end of that range. Not sure which air filter you will need for your vehicle? Give the ECOGARD mobile app a try. You can search for parts by application, part number, competitor cross reference, or VIN scan. If you don’t find any of those tools helpful, it’s probably a good idea to have your professional installer get the job done during other routine maintenance.
Change Your Wiper Blades
You’re probably going to spend a lot of time on the road this Spring and Summer, both of which are notoriously rainy seasons. Your wipers have likely taken quite a beating through all the snowstorms, frigid temperatures and ice we’ve experienced across the US this winter. This makes early Spring the ideal time to inspect and replace your front and rear wipers. At this point, the rubber squeegee is starting to break down, lose some of its elasticity and may be starting to squeal a little bit on each wipe. Changing them out now will help you avoid getting caught in that torrentially downpour with streaky, chattering wipers later this summer. On the front, you have three main options for types of wiper blade replacements. Frameless “Beam” blades, Hybrid blades, or Conventional metal frame blades. All three offer varying styles and have their own sets of unique features and benefits. If you’re wondering what type of blade you should go for – We recommend whatever came with your car from the manufacturer.
We would be remiss if we didn’t remind you not to forget the rear blade. It’s just as important to be able to see what’s behind you as well as what’s in front – especially during inclement weather. For the often-neglected rear wiper blade, your professional installer has ECOGARD wiper blades with adapters that fit over 80% of applications.
Change Your Oil and Oil Filter
Spring and summer are the busiest time of year for road travel. Spring is a great time to bring your car in for oil change service, especially if you use conventional motor oil while living in a region that experiences frigid cold temperatures. Extreme cold can cause conventional lubricants to thicken, which prevents internal parts from getting needed lubrication. As you might imagine, this results in added wear and increases the amount of dirt and debris caught in the oil filter. Just stop and think for a minute, about the added stress you’re putting on your engine when sitting in freeway traffic at 90+ degree temps, towing a 25’ boat, or camper, or even just sitting in rush hour traffic at the end of a long workday. You can’t prevent any of these things from happening, but you can protect your engine with a new oil filter and a fresh oil change. After the winter you just experienced, do you really want to head into the Summer months using the same oil and oil filter? We wouldn’t. Get your vehicle into your local shop, or quick lube for an oil change before travel time this summer.
Check Your Tires
To be prepared for anything that might come your way on the road this Summer you need to be cognizant of the condition that your tires are in. This includes knowing how much air each tire is holding and understanding whether or not you have sufficient tread to get you where you want to go – safely.
The first thing you need to understand about tire pressure is a basic rule of thumb that says for every increase or decrease in air temperature of +/- 10 degrees F, your tire pressure will change by +/- 1 PSI. For the winter this could mean you’re losing a fair amount of pressure. Maybe even enough to cause the tire pressure monitoring light to go off a couple of times. So, you’ve made adjustments during the winter when necessary in order to keep your tire pressure at the ideal setting. Now that the cold weather has gone away and it’s only going to get warmer, you need to make sure that your tires aren’t going to become overinflated as the temperature goes up as high as 90-110 degrees F. Over-inflated tires can lead to blowouts, loss of vehicle control and cause accidents that could hurt yourself or others. To avoid any of these scenarios, make sure your tire pressure is correct and ready to compensate for expected increases in air temperature.
Equally important as the air pressure in your tires is the amount of tread left on them. Tire tread grips the road and is responsible for helping the driver maintain control of the vehicle on the road in a variety of driving conditions. A lack of sufficient tire tread could lead to hydroplaning when driving in wet weather, reduced stopping ability, and put you at risk of drifting on slippery surfaces. All major safety issues which could lead to a serious accident where you are the negligent party. A good tread is anything 4/32” or deeper. 3/32” is ok but will require replacement soon. And, anything 2/32” or less and the tires need to be replaced right away. There are a few different ways to confirm the amount of tread left on your tires. One is the Penny Test, in which you insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove with the president’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see the entire head, there is less than 2/32” left and the tires require replacement. If you don’t have any change on you and can clearly see down into the tread groove, you can also look for a bar that runs across the groove. This bar is called a tread wear indicator and there are a few of them placed around the tire in the tread groove. If the bars become visibly flush with the adjacent ribs of the groove, the tires have no more than 2/32” of tread left and should be replaced right away. If either of these situations applies to your tires, it would be wise to bring your car in for tire service before hitting the road this summer.
When Spring fever hits and you start making preparations for the coming months, don’t forget about your car, – even if it’s a late model. Checking each of these maintenance items off your Spring to-do list is essential if you want to experience trouble free driving during the warm and rainy months of Spring and Summer.