Spring Tune-Up Time

Ahhh, the smell of spring is in the air — birds chirping, plants poking through the ground, the sun rising earlier and going down later. What a sensation to go outside and feel the sun on your skin; to not have to put on so much clothing you look like the “Michelin Man.” Yes, you have made it through another winter unscathed.

Cars also go through an awful lot of abuse during the winter months. Let’s take a look at what to do to avoid vehicle problems and have peace of mind during the spring and summer travel seasons.

Cooling system: Have the cooling system pressure tested for leaks, visually inspect all hose connections, radiator, condition of belts and hoses, coolant mix and cleanliness. Finally, check the thermostat and radiator for proper flow and repair as necessary. Remember that failure of the cooling system will leave you stranded, not to mention the fact that the engine’s aluminum components are very unforgiving when it comes to overheating them. Head gaskets, cylinder heads, engine blocks and the like suffer great damage from being overheated. Make sure that the integrity of the cooling system is good; have it checked out.

Check the maintenance records for the last time the engine had a tune-up. If a check-up is due, have it done, even if the engine seems to be running well. Why? Because computer-controlled cars will adjust themselves to run the best they can with worn components or system problems. This is called running in “limp mode.” The computer is adjusting the performance system allowing you to “limp” home. Without scheduled maintenance tune-ups, the rest of the system could be overtaxed.

Next, related components in the performance system begin to be affected by the malfunction — one after another. For instance, if the thermostat doesn’t heat the engine up to operating temperature, the computer then richens fuel mixture because it thinks that the engine is cold. Next, the spark plugs get carbon fouled, then the O2 sensor gets carbon fouled. This in turn causes the computer to go to the extent of its parameter, adjusting for the problem it reads in the datastream. These responses accelerate the wear of related components, costing more money down the road as the “domino juggernaut” rolls on. A good rule of thumb is to have the performance system scanned every 25,000 miles just to make sure that there are no glitches in the system.

Check the steering, suspension, and drivetrain for any wear or damage suffered during the winter months. Collisions with potholes, curbs, or unseen obstructions under the snow and ice can do damage to drivetrain, suspension, and steering components such as CV joints, half shafts, ball joints, tie rods and ends, rack-and-pinion units, springs, shocks and struts, control arms and bushings. And remember, when these parts go bad, they are not an island unto themselves — they can cause additional wear to related parts and systems. So don’t procrastinate and repair when necessary.

Winter isn’t just brutal on your automobile, it devastates streets as well. Moisture seeps into the pavement and freezes as the temperatures drop, leading to bumps and potholes on the roads. Be sure to check your wheels for visible dents in the rims, and be sure to make sure you aren’t missing a hubcap or two. Of course, if you are looking for used hubcaps or used wheels for sale, we’ve got you covered!

Thoroughly pressure-wash the undercarriage to clean off road salt. Salt lies dormant in body panels and the box areas of the car’s frame; when moisture mixes with the salt, a catalysis is created and oxidation — or rust — accelerates. Remember that it is the combination of salt with moisture that “eats” cars, not just salt or water by itself. Keeping a car clean will assure it will last a lot longer.

If running snow tires, remove them. Studded tires must be removed from vehicles by April 30th. Have the tires rotated and balanced.

Have brakes checked and repair as necessary.

Remember to follow the owner’s manual for recommended services and mileage intervals.

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