Vehicle Maintenance Tips for National Car Care Month

April is National Car Care Month, which provides a great reminder of the role you play in extending the life of your vehicle. Simple at-home cleaning and maintenance is crucial to helping your vehicle recover from a long, harsh winter. As you start your spring-cleaning, this checklist will help you give your vehicle the attention it needs and make sure it's ready to face the road ahead.

Carpeting and upholstery

During winter, nothing takes a beating more than your floor mats, which are flooded with everything from slush to road salt. Improve the appearance of your interior by removing floor mats and using a power washer to do a deep clean. Then, take the time to vacuum the upholstery, paying special attention to the seams of your seats - you never know what's been hiding in them all winter long.

Detail the interior

Your vehicle's interior has been covered in salt and slush for months. Without a good wash and rinse, the finish can begin to deteriorate, resulting in costly damage. If you are hand washing your vehicle, make sure to use a PH-balanced soap designed to clean without stripping the finish. Afterwards, treat your vehicle to a wax finish, which will help your vehicle shine while strengthening the paint and preventing chipping.

Inspect and replace windshield wipers

During winter, wiper blades come into near-constant contact with ice, snow, and sleet, which can cause damage and breakage. Make sure wipers are equipped to handle the significant rainfall that defines April and May in Chicagoland by checking and replacing them as necessary. You may even want to consider specialized wipers designed specifically to handle spring showers.

Replace winter tires

If you equipped your vehicle with heavy-duty winter tires, it's time to swap them out. Winter tires are strictly designed for handling icy roads, so using them in the spring and summer can cause the rubber compound to wear faster. Experts recommend installing all-season tires as soon as spring begins to bloom.

Check under the hood

A lot can happen under the hood during winter. Debris such as dirt and leaves can easily collect on or near the engine, impacting your vehicle's performance and efficiency. If you are conducting the inspection yourself, ensure your safety by turning off the engine and removing the battery cables. Then, use a damp cloth to clean under the hood, and try baking soda to remove any oxidation from the batteries.

Clean out the trunk

During the winter, things tend to accumulate in your trunk: shovels, window scrapers, boots, you name it. As you clear these items, make sure to check your emergency kit. Is there anything that you used that might need to be replaced? Also, have a look at your spare tire to make sure it is good to go…you never know when you might need it.

For National Car Care Month, consider setting aside an afternoon to help your vehicle recover from the winter. Following these simple steps will ensure your vehicle is up to the task, wherever your adventures take you this season.

Pam Cotton Conn is the owner of Joe Cotton Ford in Carol Stream.

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