Category Archives: spring car maintenance

Spring Car Maintenance Checklist: 14 Items that’ll Keep You on the Road This Summer

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Family in convertible car smiling when spring car maintenance is doneIt’s FINALLY spring!  Time to gear up for summer fun: road trips, camping, days at the lake, and all the other exciting parts of summer.  Don’t forget to ready the car or truck that gets you there so you can make sure you get to the fun without a breakdown on the side of the road (and melting in our hot humid weather).

____Get your alignment checked (here’s why you should get your alignment checked in spring).

____Get your snow tires removed (find out when to remove your snow tires here).

____Check your tire pressure (here’s how to check your tire pressure).

____Inspect your tires to see how much tread is left (use this easy test) and for any blistering or hardness.

____Give your car a good wash, especially the underbody (to remove the salt).

____Vacuum and clean the interior.

____Have your battery tested to make sure it can make it through the summer (the truth is that heat is harder on batteries than cold. Read up here.)

____Inspect your brakes to see if your pads or rotors need to be replaced (signs of failing brakes here).

____Check your air filter to see if it’s dirty.

____Make sure your car is up-to-date on oil changes.

____Have your windshield wipers replaced (if needed).

____Check all your headlights and tailights to make sure they work.

____Have your transmission fluid flushed (here’s how to know if you need it).

____Have your spark plugs replaced (know when it’s time with these signs).

If you don’t have the time (or expertise or equipment) to get all the items checked off your spring car maintenance checklist, make an appointment to get your car ready for all the driving that a fun summer requires.

7 Parts of Your Car to Check this Spring

couple in convertible on road trip after getting car checked by mechanic for springWe don’t care how warm it gets; no one wants to be stranded on the side of the road this spring.  Make sure you get these parts of your car checked so your car doesn’t break down in this fantastic spring weather (or in a spring storm!).

Tires

Tires are the obvious choice since they are your primary source of traction. The number one way to gain that traction is by having tires with adequate tire tread for driving.  To find if your tires pass the test, make an appointment with your mechanic.  An experienced mechanic can check your tires to see that they have been wearing evenly (uneven wear might indicate a problem with your suspension or alignment) and have enough tread to make it until fall.  You can also use the penny test to check tire tread: put the penny in the tire tread.  If you can completely see Abraham Lincoln’s head, you need new tires.

As long as you are checking your tire tread, check the pounds-per-square inch (PSI) of your tires as well (or have your mechanic check the PSI).  You can find the correct PSI for your car on the decal on the inside of the driver’s side of your car.  It’s normal for your car PSI to be low after a cold winter weather; now is the time to make sure you have the correct tire pressure for safe summer driving.

Battery

The heat of our Wisconsin summer is hard on your car battery (even harder than the cold!). If you have been having problem with inconsistent starting or a long, rough start, now is the time to get your car battery tested.  A mechanic can tell you if you need a new car battery (usually when your batter is 3-5 years old).

Brakes

Don’t let our spring showers fool you: it’s normal for car brakes to squeak occasionally when they’re wet.  Any noises beyond that are a clear sign it’s time to get your car into the mechanic; squealing, grinding noise, a pulsating brake pedal, or a soft brake pedal are all signs it’s time for new brakes.  Make an appointment as soon as you can to get your brakes replaced.  Failing brakes are a safety hazard—especially when the spring and summer storms make our roads wet and slippery.

Air filter

An air filter is one of the most overlooked parts of your car, even though a clogged air filter can affect the performance of your car. Your air filter should be inspected annually and replaced as needed (when clogged and dirty).

Alignment

Rough winter roads and spring pot holes are the worst case scenario for any car, causing your car to be unbalanced and wear on your suspension parts and tires unevenly. If your car pulls to the left or right, steering wheel does not stay straight when driving or your tires wear unevenly, make an appointment for a wheel alignment before you head out a long spring or summer trip.

Windshield wipers & Headlights

Before you get stuck driving in a spring or summer rainstorm, check your windshield wipers and headlights so you have optimal visibility. Ask your mechanic to check your windshield wipers and headlights at your next oil change or check them yourselves to make sure your car is ready for spring and summer driving.

Why does my car need an alignment?

alignment keep cars going straight down the road
If your car is pulling to the side of the road, it’s time for an alignment.

Ever been to a chiropractor because your back is “out of wack”? Or have an injury because your body is misaligned? Just as your muscles, bones and joins can have issues from daily walking, sitting, running and jumping, your car is also prone to more severe problems from daily wear and tear of driving.

It’s not that surprising, is it? Our Wisconsin winters wreak havoc on our roads, which in turn beats up on cars—from shifting pavement, potholes and ice that causes our car to slide and bump. The result: your tires and suspension are out of alignment (just like your body), which can cause other problems:

  • Uneven tire tread wear.
  • Car that pulls to the right or left.
  • Steering wheel that is not centered when driving straight.
  • Steering wheel vibration.

While you can drive with these issues (not always safely!), a car with alignment issues costs more in the long run. A car without regular alignments needs tires more often (because tires wear faster) and needs more suspension part repair and replacement. More importantly, driving in a misaligned car can cause accidents especially during our icy, treacherous winter roads in Wisconsin.

Every model of car needs a different, precise alignment so this is not something that can commonly be done at home. Just like you wouldn’t trust your body to an amateur to adjust your alignment, you shouldn’t trust your car alignment to just anyone. Take your car to Tire-rifik, where a certified alignment technician can perform a full car alignment:

  • Inspect your steering and suspension system.
  • Check your tire condition and air pressure.
  • Adjust your camber, caster and toe angles, if adjustable, to the manufacturer’s specifications. (Additional parts and labor may be necessary on some vehicles – see your customer service advisor for details)
  • Road test your vehicle to insure your alignment is a straight forward alignment.

An unbalanced car typically has a vibration or shake that becomes progressively worse as the car’s speed increases. The speed at which the vibration first becomes apparent varies depending on the size and weight of the tires and wheels, the size and weight of the car, the sensitivity of the steering and suspension, and the amount of imbalance. The vibration or shake usually starts in at 35 to 45 mph and increases in intensity as your speed increases.

Talk to your mechanic about how often your car needs an alignment, and keep it on a regular schedule. Often, you can have your car alignment checked as part of your spring car maintenance or car work before winter. The amount of time between car alignments is dependent upon the amount of miles you put on your car, as a car alignment is recommended every 6,000 miles.

Spring Car Maintenance

engineWinter is hard on a car. That’s why it’s your job as a responsible car owner to take spring as an opportunity to get your car inspected and ready for the next hard season for your car, summer (yes, it will come someday Wisconsin, be patient). Spring is the time to get your faithful tires checked after a hard winter of driving, your car aligned after sliding into a pole, and to get other important components of your car checked, corrected and ready for summer:

Alignment. Hard winter driving can knock your car’s alignment off, causing your tires to wear unevenly and need replacement prematurely. If your car pulls to the left or right, your steering wheel does not stay straight when driving or your tires wear unevenly, your car needs an alignment. A car with alignment issues wears through tires faster and has more costs due to undue wear on suspension parts.

Tire wear. Have an experienced mechanic check your tires to see that they wear evenly, and the amount of tread wear left. If the tire wear is low, your tires need to be replaced. If your tires are wearing unevenly, your car needs an alignment to prevent future breakdowns from undue wear on suspension parts.

Battery. Believe it or not, the Wisconsin heat is harder on batteries than winter cold. If your batteries are low from hard starts during winter, or shows one of these other signs of a dying battery, the summer heat is about to leave you stranded from a low battery.

Brakes. If your brakes are making any of these noises, it’s time to replace the pads or rotors that you need to safely stop. It’s normal for brakes to make occasional squeaking sounds when they get wet, but just as often your brakes are worn and in need of replacement. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, brake failure is inevitable—leaving you in the midst of an accident you caused or in a ditch waiting for a tow truck.

Air filter. A clogged air filter can affect the performance of your car. While an air filter is not something that needs to be necessarily replaced at every spring car maintenance check (though it may need to depending on your driving conditions), an air filter should be inspected regularly.

Don’t forget to check your windshield wipers and headlights so you have optimal visibility. Call or email for an appointment today to have a mechanic inspect those two key parts of your car, and get the rest of your spring car maintenance done before Wisconsin’s spring showers and summer thunderstorms hit. Remember, April showers may bring May flowers, and also car breakdowns and accidents if you car doesn’t get the annual spring car maintenance and inspections it needs.