Spring maintenance items
Especially in midwest and northern areas, cars are subjected to harsh winter conditions that can speed wear and tear and cause unforeseen and sometimes expensive failures. These are the basic but essential items that should be inspected to ensure your vehicle is safe and up to date on maintenance after 3-4 months of unforgiving temperatures.
Regularly checking up on underhood components goes a long way for preventing and spotting issues early. The vast majority of expensive failures are the result of neglect to smaller, seemingly less severe prior issues. Coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid, engine oil, and transmission fluid are important components to maintain the primary functions of a vehicle. Harsh temperatures and extreme variations in temperature are threatening to all fluids, as well as the hoses and lines they flow through. Rubber and plastic become brittle, and metal shrinks and expands as it constantly moves from operating temperature to ambient. It is important to monitor these components and repair them when necessary to prevent larger compounding issues.
Coolant travels through very fine channels and integral parts of an engine to keep it within operating temperature, and maintaining its health is essential to prevent damage to the water pump, radiator, radiator hoses, cylinder gasket, and head gasket. If an engine overheats due to low or bad coolant, the head gasket can be blown, allowing coolant and oil to mix inside the engine and eventually destroy internal components that rely heavily on proper lubrication. This is why a cooling system leak diagnosis is so essential, as well as including flushes in routine maintenance.
Engine oil provides lubrication to every moving part inside an engine, so keeping it full and clean is the easiest and simplest way to maintain its longevity and good running condition. ASG recommends 7,500 miles or one year at minimum in between oil changes for full synthetic oil, 5,000 or 6 months for semi-synthetic, and 3,000 or 6 months for conventional. Poor lubrication and high friction due to neglecting your oil’s health can cause a variety of expensive and complex mechanical failures, like failed cam bearings, broken or bent rods, cylinder wall and head damage, etc. Additionally, in modern engines, oil is also responsible for proper valve timing and optimal efficiency. This is why an oil change with high quality OE compatible oil is necessary to prevent premature wear and failure within your engine.
Power steering fluid isn’t essential to an engines health, but a leak can mask a more severe engine oil or transmission fluid leak and should be diagnosed and resolved immediately.
Healthy brake fluid is transparent, sometimes with a slight yellow tint. If it has a brown or dark color, it may be time to have your mechanic flush the system. Brake fluid should be changed every 2 years, because over time moisture builds up and contaminates the fluid, lowering its boiling point and exposing the system to rust buildup. This can harm brake performance and cause brake fade under heavy braking, at worst leading to complete brake failure.
Transmission/transfer case fluid is another routine mileage maintenance item that is often neglected, but serves the same purpose as engine oil except within the transmission gears. Transmission and transfer case damage from low or dirty fluid often requires these components to be replaced completely, as there are very specific specifications and fine tolerances for correct operation.
All of these fluids are closed systems, and if they are below the min line or continue to drop after they are topped off, there is likely a leak somewhere and you should have it diagnosed by your mechanic.
Batteries are especially susceptible to the cold. They drain and wear faster in colder temperatures, so you should make sure yours is in good shape to avoid being stranded and having to tow or jump start your vehicle. Corroded terminals, loose cables and improperly secured battery trays and holddowns can also all cause bad connections and voltage shortages.
Your mechanic offers battery terminal cleaning services and can properly secure your battery to prevent premature wear or sudden disconnection. Batteries are a maintenance item and usually need to be replaced every 3-4 years, but your mechanic can test it to make sure it is healthy and functioning well after the winter season.
As previously mentioned, rubber becomes brittle and is more prone to cracking in the cold. Drive belts are constantly under tension and should never be loose, cracked, or off center on the pulleys. If the belt slips off or breaks it can be detrimental to your engine because it is run off of the crankshaft pulley, not to mention the vehicle would be unable to operate until a new belt was installed. Belts are both a mileage and age item and their replacement is vital.
An AC system usually fails because moisture is introduced in the lines, which can cause freezing and blown lines in winter temperatures. This could be because of a leak, which pulls air in on the vacuum sealed low side of the system, or because the system was opened at some point and improperly serviced.
The latter is a large reason why mechanics don’t recommend AC “recharge” kits from auto parts stores. These products plug leaks temporarily, but also use low quality refrigerant and introduce contaminates that clog other components like the AC lines, compressor, condenser, and evaporator. This causes more damage and exacerbates the issue much more than if the system was sealed and filled properly with an AC service machine using OEM style refrigerant by a professional. AC systems are highly susceptible to tampering, so if your AC isn’t working after the winter or you notice buildup near the AC fill caps, have your mechanic diagnose and correct it.
Your vehicle has at least one engine air filter, as well as a cabin air filter. The engine air filter cleans dirty air that it pulls from outside to feed into the engine. Dirty and clogged air filters can cause decreased engine power and efficiency, increase fuel consumption, and damage MAF sensors.
The cabin air filter cleans the air brought through the HVAC system and inside the vehicle. Failing to replace these can harm HVAC performance and introduce contaminates in the cabin for the passengers to inhale.
These are inexpensive mileage and time maintenance items that should be replaced regularly. The intervals vary by make and model, so ask your mechanic when your vehicle is due for filters.
Tire health is always important, especially so after winter when the wet season approaches. If you installed winter tires in the fall, have them changed to al season or summer tires. Winter tires have more pliable rubber to give them more grip in the snow, but that also means they wear quickly in warm temperatures.
DOT recommendations for tread are minimum of 4/32 on steer tires, and 2/32 on all others. Anything below this is illegal, not to mention extremely unsafe, leading to loss of control and hydroplaning. Bad tires also increase braking distance because the faster your tires lose grip, the faster ABS is engaged to prevent the brakes from locking up, potentially leading to an accident in an emergency braking situation.
DOT recommends replacing tires when they are 6-10 years old, regardless of tread. Cold, dry conditions will dry rot tires more quickly and cause cracks in the sidewall and tread, which can lead to a blowout if not addressed. Tires are the only thing between you and the road surface, so it is vital for your and others safety to stay up to date with their maintenance.
Potholes and road obstacles can be especially hard to spot and avoid in the winter, and that can cause suspension damage. Damaged or worn suspension can lead to excessive tire wear, damaged wheel bearings, poor ride quality, and a generally unstable vehicle. If you notice any leaking shocks, pulls, vibrations, or noises from your undercarriage, you should have your suspension inspected.
Exterior lights are the only way for drivers to communicate with each other on the road, so it’s obvious why the laws regarding keeping them operational are so stringent. ASG installs most standard halogen bulbs free of charge. The last thing you want is to be pulled over for a simple exterior light out, so you should never hesitate to take care of any headlight, turn signal, tail or brake light issues.
Wiper blades take a lot of abuse in the winter, especially if you use them to clear snow and ice off of your windshield rather than a brush or scraper. Freezing and thawing can break down the rubber on the wiper blades, causing streaks. Scraping over ice and pushing snow around can also warp and bend the blades and arms, harming their ability to seal to the windshield and move water. Always test your wiper blades and refill your washer fluid regularly so you don’t have to worry about visibility in wet weather conditions.
In areas with heavy snow, salt is normally used to melt the ice on the roads, but salt and slush deposits can build up on and underneath your vehicle and speed corrosion processes if not addressed. Giving your vehicle a thorough body and underbody was is a good idea to get rid of any remaining debris from the winter roads and prevent excessive rust buildup.