Spring has sprung! Gone are the dreary days of winter – which means no more slush, road salt or slow traffic (well… hopefully). While many drivers will be making a beeline to the car wash to scrub all of the winter filth away, there’s quite a bit more you can do to ensure your car, truck or SUV looks – and performs – at its best year-round. Investing a bit of money into your vehicle throughout the year will usually pay off in savings down the line. This means going beyond the standard maintenance service (generally a chassis lubrication, oil change and filter replacement) you get at your local shop or dealership. Here are six maintenance items to keep you and your vehicle on the road for many miles.
1. Interior Detailing
Maybe the most obvious item on this list is also the easiest. Given all the dirt, leaves, wrappers, receipts and other debris coming into our cars, it’s worth taking some time to vacuum it out. Getting in between and underneath your car seats will ensure your vehicle stays clear of dirt and odors – and seldom-seen features like the seat mechanism work properly. But don’t just limit cleaning to car seats and floors – taking wet wipes to the steering wheel, center stack, dashboard and console will remove germs, stickiness and other contaminants that could cause long-term damage to your vehicle – and your health!
2. Tire Rotation
Though this is included with many professional oil changes, tire rotation is sometimes overlooked as a basic maintenance item. Front-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive vehicles typically wear down one pair of tires quicker than the other, so having both pairs “take a turn” being worn down is beneficial. Ensuring your tires wear evenly will save gas, and will likely reduce the number of times you need to change them over the course of a vehicle’s lifetime. The easiest way to check the depth of your tire treads is tried and true – take a penny and stick it into the treads of your tire so Abraham Lincoln is facing you, upside down. If you can see the top of Honest Abe’s head, it means the treads are less than 2/32” thick and it’s time to get new tires! It’s recommended you rotate your tires every 5,000 miles.
3. Transmission Fluid
Much of the focus on a vehicle is on its engine, and for good reason – it’s what makes your vehicle go! But transmissions are equally as important as engines. In essence, it controls how much power the engine has to produce in order to make the wheels turn. So what does fluid have to do with it? Many of today’s automotive transmissions are hydraulic, meaning they use fluid to control various clutches and change gears. This fluid can wear out over time, which usually leads to serious and costly transmission damage. If your owner’s manual isn’t available, Transmission Repair Guy recommends having your automatic transmission’s fluid replaced every 30,000 to 60,000 miles – or once every two to four years – to make sure the road ahead is smooth sailing.
4. Windshield Wipers
It’s a cheap, quick fix, but it’s easy to overlook. Windshield wipers are your vehicle’s front line against the elements, with its rubber or silicone edge ensuring a driver has clear vision during inclement weather. This edge wears down over time, leaving streaks on your windshield. Certain wiper blades (such as Bosch ICON or Rain-X Latitude Water Repellency 2-in-1) apply a hydrophobic coating onto your windshield, which prevents water from accumulating long after it’s been used. It’s recommended you change your windshield wipers at least once per year, ideally before they start wearing out. You do yourself a disservice by putting off replacement of your windshield wipers – keep your vision clear as you move forward!
Hearing a loud, piercing noise as you roll up to a red light? Sounds like it’s time to change your brakes. Most drivers are aware of how brakes work – brake pads rub against an inner part of the wheel called the rotor– but there’s more to taking good care of your wheels than just the brake pads. The calipers, the push-and–pull mechanism, need to stay tight and free from rust. Brake fluid, which impacts how brakes respond to the pressing and depressing of the brake pedal, may need to be changed periodically as well – it depends on your manufacturer. Stopping your vehicle is just as important as starting it, so ensure the totality of your vehicle’s brake system is well-maintained.
6. Power Steering Fluid
Power steering didn’t start appearing in mass-produced vehicles until the 1951 Chrysler Imperial, but it has been nearly standard ever since. Larger vehicles – including high-strength steel-intensive trucks and SUVs preferred by today’s automotive customers – would be difficult to maneuver without it. Using a hydraulic system, force is applied to the steering gear via double-acting hydraulic cylinders. The fluid in these reservoirs needs to be changed periodically. The rule of thumb, per YourMechanic.com, is to replace it every two years or 24,000 miles. It goes a long way towards ensuring you’re always in control!
Vehicle maintenance manifests itself in multiple ways – and it goes beyond oil changes, car washes and the occasional brake replacement. Following these steps will help you get more miles (and more memories!) out of your beloved vehicle. It’s also important for your vehicle to retain value.
Did we miss anything? What do you recommend makes life on the road easier? Leave us a comment and let’s chat!