Steps to Prepare Your Vehicle for Warmer Weather

Harsh winters hurt cars; clean cars last longer

By William (Bill) Turner

New England, as we all know, has harsh winter conditions, which can leave behind residual effects that affect your vehicle’s performance and condition as temperatures rise — from built-up grime, road salt, and fluid contamination to deteriorated wipers and battery issues. With the high price of new and used cars and high interest rates on loans, it’s in people’s best interests to prolong and maintain the current car or cars you may already have.

While many people in New Hampshire are knowledgeable about vehicle maintenance, there are also many who know little and may find some of these tips helpful.

A clean car lasts longer. In the spring, give your car a thorough cleaning inside and out, shampooing carpets and thoroughly hosing your car’s undercarriage to remove built-up road salt, sand, and dirt. Inspect battery connections, brakes, and belts for any signs of wear or corrosion.

Get down and look under the car. Things like exhaust hangers or skid plates and fender liners can have screws or other parts rust away and can impact the road causing additional damage. Replacing a rusted away exhaust hanger is a lot cheaper than replacing your exhaust or pipes when they come off completely.

Use a stiff cleaning brush to scrub away stubborn grime in wheel wells. Grime and road salt on wheel wells can lead to additional corrosion on your car.

Consider an engine air filter replacement, if it appears excessively dirty, and a cabin air filter replacement, as well. Both are fairly easy to change, even for a novice, and it’s more cost-effective for a consumer to change themselves.

If you’re feeling adventurous, test the battery load with a voltmeter to check for any charging issues. Most professionals recommend you change a car battery every four to five years, and most consumers don’t contemplate changes until they have issues. If your car starts slowly now, you should consider a replacement battery or you may be stranded.

Inspect tires for bald spots, cracks, or improper inflation levels. This is also a good time to change over your tires if you are using winter or studded tires, as running winter tires on warm or hot road surfaces causes a tire’s rubber compound to wear more quickly. Your car will destroy a set of snow tires if they are left on for the warmer months that are coming!  


You should also do the penny test. Take a penny and place it with Lincoln’s head upside down between two ribs/treads on your tire. If part of the head is covered, your tires are still in good shape. If you can see his entire head or it’s close, your tread is worn to 2⁄32 inch (approximately 1.6 mm) or less and it’s time to replace the tires. Having bald tires can lead to more accidents, and while tires are expensive, repairing a car can be much more costly.

Top off windshield wiper fluid with a bug-remover formula. Rain-X for example has a windshield wiper fluid that cleans bugs and grime and has water beading technology. You can also buy window washer concentrate in liquid or tablet form to help keep costs down. Spring is bug time, and those black flies can be pesky to people and your windshields.

Check your oil and coolant levels. While most modern cars have sensors that are supposed to tell you when levels are low, it doesn’t hurt to double-check, as sensors can fail or give inaccurate readings.

After months of winter disuse, systems like air conditioning and defrosters may not operate at peak efficiency as temperatures climb and you may not have turned on your AC since the fall. Test your AC on full blast to check for warm air or weak air flow and listen for any abnormal rattling or knocking sounds from the compressor.

Treat vinyl, rubber, and plastic components with UV protectant. Treating the rubber seals on your car doors and trunk and making sure any seals like the one that goes around your windshield are treated with protectant can extend the life of your car. As cars age and are exposed to heat and UV exposure, parts become brittle and crack.

By taking preventative measures and considering the impact of summer driving conditions, you can prevent discomfort from lack of cooling, reduced visibility, premature wear, and overheating problems, as well as extend the life of your current car. An ounce of preparation saves big headaches once summer is in full swing.