Spring Car Tips

Now is the perfect time to give your car a bumper-to-bumper exam. We asked some of our Approved Auto Repair technicians and our Car Doctor, John Paul, for their best spring advice!

Winter conditions, as well as salt and sand from the snow, may have damaged your car, and having it sit for a while can cause more problems. Taking care of any issues now and doing some preventative maintenance will keep you running smoothly on the roads this summer.

  1. If the weather permits, wash your car. Salt can affect the paint and corrode any metal, so make sure to remove it. Don’t forget underneath…the undercarriage can accumulate sand, dirt, grime, and salt. Use a hose to get it all off. If you notice any chips or scratches, fix them now before they start corroding the paint. A good coat of wax will renew the paint and protect your car from spring weather as well.

  2. Replace filters. Spring is allergy season so you need a clean cabin air filter to keep pollen, dirt, and dust from getting into the car. Look at the engine air filter to make sure it’s clean.

  3. Refill fluids and check your windshield wiper blades. Spring brings rain, so you need the wipers fully functioning for good visibility.

  4. Check your battery. Cold temperatures require more starting power, so make sure it’s still charged and fully functioning. AAA members can call AAA Car Battery Service to schedule a free battery test and get a quote. If your car has been sitting over the winter, it is likely the battery will need to be charged with a battery charger to get it back to full power.

  5. Measure tire pressure. Potholes and cold, wintry roads decrease pressure, so make sure they’re at proper levels. Find the right pressure for your tires by checking the sticker on the insider of the driver’s door.

  6. Check your tires. Closely inspect the tires for cuts, bulges, and other damage caused by potholes that occur in the winter. Sand and salt are abrasive and degrade tire surfaces, so check the tire treads – AAA recommends replacing tires when the tread depth reaches 4/32”. Poor traction will lead to hydroplaning on wet roads caused by spring rains.

  7. Vacuum the interior of the car, including the air vents, to remove any debris, food, sand, or salt. Clean the windows inside and out and dust the dashboard and plastic components.
  1. Fill your vehicle’s fuel tank and add a gasoline stabilizer. This will extend the life of fuel and prevent condensation from building up in the fuel tank.

  2. Drive your vehicle at least once a week for 30 minutes. Not only will it get you out of the house, but it will also exercise all the moving parts of the engine and help maintain the battery. Don’t just let the car sit idle; drive it around to get the maximum benefit for all the fluids and tires.

  3. When you do drive the vehicle, don’t be surprised if you hear a slight grinding noise from the brakes…this is nothing more than a little surface rust wearing off the brake surfaces. Rust can accumulate from being parked for a period of time and isn’t something to be too concerned with.

  4. Take a few minutes to lubricate door locks (if accessible), hinges, the hood release, and even the gas door release. Use a light oil or silicone spray, not a penetrating oil. Penetrating oil is great for dealing with rusty nuts and bolts but tends to wash away lubricants.

  5. Remember that many service recommendations are based on time and not just mileage. For example, your car requires an oil change every six months, or 7,000 miles. You still need to have the oil replaced and the vital fluids checked, regardless of whether you drive 7,000 miles or not. Plan on making appointments with your Approved Auto Repair facilities once you start driving your normal routes again.

  6. Depending on where you park, there may be mice or other critters that want to call your vehicle home. These rodents can chew on wires and cause thousands of dollars of damage, make nests in your filters, and cause other messes. I’ve even had one set up shop in my glove compartment! There are a variety of sprays and granules on the market to deter these animals. Some have the scent of a predator and others smell like mint — a scent rodents don’t like.

Everyone likes driving a clean car. With a few extra steps, you can ensure your vehicle is not only clean but free of germs and safer to drive.

  1. Vacuum and clean the carpets, seats, and even the headliner (roof).

  2. Remove any trash from under the seats, in between the seats and console, and the back. Check the glove compartment and throw away outdated paperwork, food, or other items you don’t need. Wipe down the compartment with a disinfectant wipe.

  3. Clean the trunk and toss out any unused items that have accumulated.

  4. Now wash the interior with a solution of mild dish soap and water. Use more suds than liquid on a soft brush and clean the nooks and crannies. (A toothbrush works great.) Wipe off damp surfaces with a microfiber cloth.

  5. Use disinfectant wipes (or 70% isopropyl alcohol) to clean all surfaces: steering wheel and shifter, switches, seat controls, interior and exterior door handles, armrests, console covers, even the sun visors. A light touch is all you need; don’t flood any surface with cleaner.

  6. Use a disinfectant spray under the seats and give a quick spray into the air vents.

  7. Be careful of a touch screen – paper towels can scratch surfaces and alcohol-based cleaners can damage. A 50/50 solution of vinegar and water sprayed on a cloth works best.

  8. Use a specialized leather cleaner on leather seats; cloth and vinyl can be cleaned with a mild soap and water mix.

  9. Use the same soap and water mix on carpets and floor mats but don’t overdo it. Flooding the carpets can lead to mold and mildew buildup.

  10. Make sure the carpets are thoroughly dry before putting the floor mats securely in place.
  1. Always use a specific car wash product – never dish soap – to wash. Dish soap can strip off the wax.

  2. Always wash your vehicle when it’s out of the sun and cool to the touch.

  3. Use the two-bucket method: one bucket for your car wash soap and water mixture, and another bucket for clean water to rinse the sponge or car wash mitt. This will keep you from transferring dirt back onto the car.

  4. Wash and rinse from top to bottom, rinsing as you clean. If you have a convertible, gently wash the top using a dedicated product like RaggTopp, which cleans and restores waterproofing.

  5. Wash the wheels and tires with a car wash or a dedicated tire-and-wheel product. (Read the label to make sure the product is compatible with the wheels you have, as some contain mild acids or lye that can damage rims.) Use a soft brush will clean out accumulated dirt and brake dust.

  6. Dry the car before water spots can appear, using a traditional chamois or a thick micro-fiber cloth.

  7. If your vehicle has vinyl trim, you may notice it turning white over time from oxidation. Vinyl beautifiers will give these surfaces a rich look without being shiny. These products can be used on the inside as well, and don’t produce a reflection in the windshield when used on the dash.

  8. When drying, make sure you open the doors and wipe up any accumulated soap, wiping down all the door gaskets with vinyl cleaner or silicone spray on a towel.
  1. Remove the floor mats and give them and the interior a thorough vacuuming. Use a crevice tool to get down between and underneath the seats. You can scrub the mats with soap and water, leaving them in the sun to dry. Never replace the mats when wet or you’ll get mold and a smelly interior.

  2. Clean the carpets with mild soap and water and use more suds than water for faster drying

  3. Go through the glove compartment, removing any accumulated junk, outdated paperwork, and especially food. (If your car is sitting unused for long periods of time these days, rodents may try to inhabit your vehicle…any food or water inside your car will attract them so be sure to clean it out thoroughly.)

  4. Use a dedicated leather or upholstery cleaner on your seats. Always start in an inconspicuous spot to check for colorfastness. Less is more…you don’t want to leave seats wet and attract mold.

  5. Don’t use bleach or hydrogen peroxide solutions on the instrument cluster as they will damage plastic surfaces. Sanitizing wipes work well, although plain soap and water will suffice. A toothbrush works well to clean around the dash, inside the cupholders, door pockets, the center console, and other nooks and crannies that accumulate dirt and grime. Dry the surfaces with a towel.

  6. Clean the cargo area or trunk and vacuum here as well.
  1. Depending on the condition and your own patience, you may want to do some paint correction beforehand. This might include a touch-up or using a clay-bar to remove imperfections. Surface scratches can be removed with a fine polishing compound; more serious scratches require a heavier compound to smooth out the paint.

  2. Choose the car wax wisely. As a rule, synthetic waxes last longer and are easy to apply and remove. Carnauba waxes tend to give the paint a richer look, which many prefer. Ceramic coatings have a longer life but require extensive surface preparation. Spray waxes are great for a quick touch-up, but they’re not designed to restore faded finishes.

  3. When waxing, take care not to get any on the trim. If you do, use the vinyl cleaner to remove it.

  4. Clean the windows last, using a quality window cleaner. I prefer using a foam spray with paper towels, finishing with a microfiber cloth. Don’t forget to open the windows slightly to fully clean the top of the glass that sits up in the door frame.

What to do if you break down

Despite your best efforts, you may have to call for roadside assistance at some point. Cars have parts that break, flat tires happen “out of nowhere” and crashes are often unavoidable. Preparation is the key to staying calm and composed when you break down.

Download our guide “What to do when your vehicle breaks down” and keep it in your car.