Not many places escaped winter’s chill these past few months – in some spots it is hanging around like the last guest who doesn’t realize the party is over.
Warm weather is ahead (we promise, northern states). While that typically brings the urge to open windows and clean all the nooks and crannies in the house, it’s also a good time to give your ride some TLC.
The cold and rough roads can take their toll on a car, truck or SUV, but who wants to stand outside in that weather to check things out.
That’s why now is the best time to set aside a couple of hours, rustle up some favorite tunes from back in the day along with a cold drink or two, and pamper your car. It’s a fact: Driving a clean car boosts your mood.
Here are five areas to check during your driveway spring cleanup:
Bath time: Sure, you’ve been good and put your ride through a car wash a few times this past few months. Now, it’s time to really get up close and clean. Ideally, go old school and get out the bucket, sponge and detergent and get soapy. (Handy tip: Wash and dry the car in the shade to prevent water spotting.) As an alternative, head off to your favorite DIY wash place, feed a bunch of quarters into the slot and wave around the pressured wash wand and foaming brush.
Doing it this way forces you to take a good, close look at the body panels and lights. Did you pick up a nick or crack in a headlamp lens or a stone chip that broke the paint surface? Are the liners all secure in the wheel wells? These are the things you won’t see just chilling in the driver’s seat in an automated car wash.
Pop the hood: Give the engine compartment a good inspection. Is corrosion (chalky white crud) forming on the battery terminals? If so, it needs to be cleaned off. Check the oil filler cap and dip stick to make sure they’re tight and secure. Do you remember the last time the air filter was changed? If not, it may be due. After months of squirting the windshield, check the level in the washer fluid reservoir.
Clear vision: Cold temperatures and road grime take their toll on windshield wipers. If things aren’t as clear as you remember them being, it’s time to change the wiper blades. It is an easy DIY job. Just check the owner’s manual to make sure you get the correct blade size for driver and passenger sides (they can be different). Also, don’t forget about the blade out back if your vehicle has a rear wiper.
Also, take the time to clean the windows on the inside, particularly the windshield. You may discover that the morning haze you see as the car warms up may be more than outside fog.
Rolling along: While you’re cleaning the outside, take a knee and get a close look at each tire and wheel. Keep an eye out for any cuts or bulges in the tire sidewalls (make sure to run your hand along the inside sidewall as best you can) because potholes are evil things and it’s much easier to fix a tire when you can drive to the repair place instead of putting on the spare tire alongside a road.
Inspect the wheels for any nicks, divots or bends. Do you feel a vibration in the steering wheel while driving? If so, it’s time to get the wheels checked for balance and alignment. Also, make sure the tire pressure is set to the correct cold psi – the recommended pressure is listed on a sticker in the driver’s door opening – particularly if the tire pressure monitor indicator has been lit in the morning with cold temperatures (a sign the tire pressure is low.)
Treasure hunt: Spring is the perfect time to go hunting for the errant French fry or empty drink bottle that’s been hibernating underneath one of the front seats for the winter. Better to find it this way than with your nose when it gets warm outside. You might even make some money (spare change!)
A good vacuuming of the carpets and seats makes your vehicle look and feel new again.
If your car has leather seats, give them a wipe down with a high-quality leather cleaning product (your favorite auto parts store will have several choices.) Then follow up with a high-quality leather conditioner to keep the coverings supple and looking fresh.
If the floor mats are dirty/stained from winter duty, you can give them a quick spruce up with the high-pressure wand at the car wash and then let them dry in the sun.
A good wipe with a damp cloth will clear up any minor spills around the cupholders. A quick swipe with a dusting wand cleans up the dashboard and instrument panel.
Also, many newer vehicles such as those with the 8.4-inch Uconnect system use computer-like screens in the gauge and center touchscreen. Don’t clean these screens with glass cleaner and paper towels, the screens can get scratched. Use a lint-free microfiber cloth (like the ones used for eye glasses) to gently wipe the screen to remove dirt and finger prints.