Spring vehicle maintenance: keeping your car in top condition

Winter is fading quickly from memory and the smell of spring is in the air. Most vehicles have survived Canada’s harsh winter environment without problems, but winter driving usually means a lot of idling time for our vehicles. Extended warm up times and slower commutes because of road conditions take their toll on all vehicles. A little preventative maintenance goes a long way to ensure trouble-free motoring this spring.

Under the hood

Under hood inspections are mostly visual. You can see the levels of brake fluid and engine coolant in their reservoirs on most vehicles. Low brake fluid could indicate a leak but if the brake pedal is firm, then it likely indicates worn brake pads. Low engine coolant is a sign of a leak. External leaks will leave a visible stain on the parts. An internal engine coolant leak is more serious as it can destroy an engine when coolant mixes with the oil It’s time to have your Mitsubishi service centre check out your vehicle if either level is low. Also, an oil or wet spot on the driveway or garage floor may be an early indication of trouble. Your service centre can determine if it is serious or just requires some maintenance.

Spring is also time to change your engine oil. Cold starts and short trips cause a lot of condensation inside the engine. Over the winter a litre or more of water could collect in your engine oil. The water causes sludge and acids to form inside the engine. The oil level may look fine, but extended highway driving will cause the water to evaporate and your engine is now operating with low oil levels. A simple oil and filter change will help protect the engine.

While under the hood, take a look at the engine accessory drive belt or belts. Belts can last many years but if you see large cracks or chunks missing from the belt then they are due for a change. Now is also a good time to refill the windshield washer container. Spring rains and dirty roads can hinder your visibility quickly. If your vehicle sits outside most of the time, windshield wiper blades should be replaced every couple years. The rubber blades get hard with age and don’t clean well.

Washing

Washing the vehicle thoroughly is a good way to get rid of winter salt accumulations. Wash inside the wheel openings, inside front fenders, along the bottoms of doors and beneath the car body as much as possible, but avoid spraying electrical components and connections. 

Finish the task by applying polish to the exterior paint (in a shaded location). This not only prolongs the life of your vehicle but increases its value and you will likely feel better driving it.

Check the tires

Tire inspection is critical to safety. A normal tire will lose about one PSI air pressure per month and outside temperature variations can cause even a larger change. Fill your tires to the recommended pressure indicated on the decal, usually located by the driver’s door jamb. Don’t forget to check the spare tire too!

Tire tread should be worn evenly across the face. The minimum legal tire tread depth is 2/32 of an inch (1.6mm). At that depth, “wear bars” of solid rubber will appear across the tread pattern as a warning. Above that tread depth, the tires have enough traction for dry pavement, but if you are driving on wet or muddy roads, you need more tread depth to provide traction. It may be time for new tires.

Spring is a good time to have the wheel alignment checked. Rough winter roads and severe bumps can wear suspension components or bend parts. During an alignment, the technician will check the suspension and steering for wear or damage and adjust the settings if required. A vehicle with proper wheel alignment will use less fuel, increase tire life and be safer to drive. Other items such as exhaust system pipes, mufflers and mountings require getting beneath the vehicle and are easier left to professionals; they should be inspected at least once a year, so have them checked when you have the wheel alignment checked.

A vehicle is made up of over 15,000 individual parts. No matter how carefully everything is inspected, you can’t predict exactly what will work or fail. We have all seen those vehicles disabled on the side of the road. Some simple inspections and a little maintenance before you travel may be all that it takes to avoid joining their ranks.

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