As winter comes to a slow close across the country, more than 150 million drivers have been impacted by conditions that take a physical toll on their cars. In February 2017 AAA released a new study showing drivers across the U.S. paid around $3 billion annually in repairs due to rust damage caused by road deicers. Of course, the use of road salt and its newly adopted liquid form are essential to keeping drivers safe during rough patches of weather. While a welcome addition to our roadways in terms of safety, these harsh chemicals can cause irreversible damage to your vehicle.
To many drivers, rust is simply a cosmetic issue that they can afford to ignore. Sure, it’s unsightly, but what’s the big deal? What many consumers do not know is that rust can have a potentially deadly impact to your car. This damage can cause brake lines to fail, and negatively affect fuel tanks, exhaust systems and other critical parts of your car.
While some damage caused by rust is unfortunately unavoidable, there are ways to fight back and properly maintain your vehicle. Now that the ice has begun to thaw it is an optimal time for drivers to focus on spring cleaning and maintenance to drive safely into warmer weather.
A Good Wash Goes a Long Way
After a winter driving over ice, snow and slush, the undercarriage of your car is especially vulnerable to the rust causing chemicals used to treat roadways over the span of several months. However, advising one to thoroughly clean the underside of your car, including wheel wells, is easier said than done. Here is where power comes into play – use the pressure from a hose to blast away the salt that has probably already settled in the complex weave of pipes and parts under your vehicle. If you’re notask comfortable performing this cleanse yourself, it is worth the extra few dollars at a local carwash to them to perform a cleaning on the underside of your vehicle.
A general wash of the exterior is also essential to make sure all chemicals are effectively removed . When performing a DIY cleaning as the weather begins to warm, always start from the top of the car and gradually move to the bottom using the two bucket method. Some drivers may only use one bucket, repeatedly putting a dirty wash cloth back in water they plan to use to clean their vehicle. Using this dirty water will not only spread contaminants but also increase the likelihood for paint damage. Instead, keep it simple and have one bucket for rinse only and another filled with the soap or detergent of your choice.
Another essential part of your cleaning regiment is the tools that you use to wash away that tough winter residue. Soft, quality wash mitts or cloths are key to making sure you do not damage your car’s paint job. When it comes to the soap you use to clean your vehicle, invest in trusted brands made specifically for a car wash. Using household cleaning agents like dishwashing detergents could strip your vehicle of its protective coating.
Lastly, never skip drying off your vehicle after a DIY cleaning session – if you leave your car to air dry it may leave water marks. As mentioned above, focus on using a high quality towel such as one made from microfiber material that will effectively dry your ride without leaving any scratches. Dry from top to bottom and when finished, wipe down all door jambs and seals.
Spring Car Care
In addition to a thorough cleaning, drivers should look to invest in basic maintenance tasks to ensure their ride is warm weather ready. One of the first items to check is the air pressure in your tires as changing temperatures can dramatically impact pressure and cause a flat. After winter weather subsides, make sure your tires are properly inflated. Also, changing weather can affect the wear of your tires so it is important to ensure the condition of your wheels for traction before hitting the road.
Another simple maintenance item that should be on every driver’s check list is changing wiper blades. Your wiper blades are essential to safety, and as we transition from snow and slush to rain you’ll be needing them more often. The salt and road grime that come up onto your car in winter can damage your wiper blades and lead to a break. To be safe, change them out as spring begins.
Heading into warmer weather also means using your AC system after months of inactivity, and it is best to test your system early rather than waiting for when you need it most. If your system seems to be losing power or the air isn’t as cool as you’d like it to be, your vehicle might need more refrigerant. This is called a system recharge and while it can be done at home, the use of chemicals makes this a DIY project best saved for those with existing auto experience or a job to bring to your local mechanic.
A restricted condenser might also be the culprit for reduced air flow, and this can be checked by looking at the front of the radiator for a build-up of debris. While both of the above are common issues with an AC system, there can be a more serious problem at hand. If your car is losing refrigerant it is important to determine the bigger cause, as a leak in a hose needs to be inspected and repaired by a professional.
As millions of consumers look to hit the road with road trips and other activities as the weather clears, it is important to first prepare your prized possession for the big change with these preventative tips.
Richard Reina is the Product Training Director at CARiD and an auto enthusiast and expert with over 30 years of experience working with cars.