Winter driving isn’t just hard on you—it’s also hard on your car. Besides being subjected to extreme cold temperatures, your vehicle also picks up salt, sand, and debris both inside and out. The cold can affect your paint, your engine, and many of your vehicle’s critical systems. Once the winter months are over and the risk of snow and ice is gone, it’s time to give your car a little tender loving care.
One of the most important things to do at the end of winter is a good undercarriage wash. Even if you usually wash your car at home or in a self-service stall, this is the one time of the year you might want to break that habit. It’s worth paying for an undercarriage power wash at a local car spa. The jets of water will dislodge grime, sand, and especially salt that has accumulated beneath your vehicle during the winter months, preventing future rust and the buildup of gunk.
Once the car is clean underneath, wash it from top down with a good detergent. Don’t forget the undersides of the doors, the door sills, and other painted areas that aren’t visible. Also, tires and wheels need to be given special attention. Once the exterior is completely clean, wax it thoroughly with a liquid, spray, or paste wax.
Spend some time cleaning out the interior of your car. It’s not a “spring cleaning” if you still have litter on the floors and receipts and wrappers tucked into all of the little storage cubbies. Once you’ve cleared away the accumulated trash, wipe all of the non-porous surfaces with a soft rag or cleansing wipes. Pay attention to the dashboard, the instrument panel, the cup holders, and the console. Even closed compartments can collect dust, so wipe out the insides as well as the outsides.
If you have leather seats, clean them with a product designed for leather surfaces. If you have cloth upholstery, consider having your seats steam cleaned. You can also rent a portable cleaner to do this yourself. Attack any spots or spills with an upholstery cleaning spray and a clean cloth.
Next, give some attention to your carpets and floor mats. During the winter, sand, and salt can come in on your shoes, work its way into the pile, and break down the fibers. Vacuum carpeted surfaces thoroughly, and if you have access to a portable carpet extractor, this is the perfect time to use it. Treat any stains with spray-on carpet cleaner. Some people like to take their floor mats to a do-it-yourself car wash and power-wash them. If you do this, make sure you let them dry in a shady place, to prevent bleaching.
Finally, wipe your windows inside and out with a good glass cleaner. Spray onto the cleaning cloth (or paper towel) rather than directly onto the window to prevent streaking and to prevent the glass cleaner from affecting other interior or exterior surfaces.
During winter, vehicle trunks can often accumulate junk: residue from the holidays, ice scrapers and snow brushes, emergency tools, bags of sand or salt, and other odds and ends. Spring is a great time to remove everything you don’t absolutely need.
Pull everything out and sort into piles—stuff to keep, stuff to store for later, and stuff to throw away. While your trunk is empty, take advantage of the access to make sure your spare tire, tire tools, and jack are all in usable condition. (This is a good thing to do even if these items are stored elsewhere in or under your vehicle.) Then vacuum the entire interior of the trunk and replace the items you want to continue carrying throughout the spring and summer months.
Spring cleaning time is a perfect opportunity to address the standard maintenance items that all cars require. Whether you do the work yourself or have a professional do it for you, it’s worth addressing these important details:
- Check tire tread and pressure, rotate tires, swap out winter tires if necessary
- Check battery fluid and condition
- Change oil and oil filter
- Replace cabin air filter
- Double-check engine fluids, belts, and hoses
- Add windshield washer fluid
- Replace wiper blades, if needed
We hope you and your vehicle have a great spring!