2009 Spring Car Guide
auto
Checklist: 11 car fix-ups for spring

Benefiting from years of incredible public relations, the spring season is associated favorably with fertility, rebirth and awakening. It closes the door on winter, is highly anticipated and widely celebrated. But it's more than simply an opportunity to dance around your backyard with flowers in your hair.

The arrival of spring means it's time to plant, take down the holiday lights still draped from the eaves, wash those outside windows -- yes, the second-story ones, too -- and prepare your vehicles for the summer.

Putting a little time, effort and even a little money into your vehicle's springtime maintenance not only can minimize unexpected and time-consuming repairs on those summer vacation excursions, but ultimately help maximize resale value. Do-it-yourselfers can accomplish most of the items on this checklist, but some or all can be farmed out to a professional if you choose.

11 spring gotta-do's for your car
  1. Clean the exterior.
  2. Clean the interior.
  3. Check the tires.
  4. Rotate the tires.
  5. Inspect the brakes.
  6. Check all wiper blades.
  7. Repair scratches.
  8. Flush the radiator.
  9. Check all hoses and belts.
  10. Top off all fluids.
  11. Inspect your battery connections.
Clean the exterior. Wash the exterior using a cleaner specifically formulated for automobiles and a clean, soft sponge or mitt. Some wheel cleaners can damage the vehicle's paint finish, so take care not to get any on the finish and clean it off immediately if you do. Protecting the finish against the elements requires a coat of wax two or three times a year. Spring is the ideal time to wax. Regardless of what the directions on the wax container say, always wax a vehicle in the shade. Typically, paste wax provides more durable protection, but some good liquid waxes are on the market. The clear coat on today's vehicles is more robust compared with 10 years ago but still can be marred. Wax should be removed by hand with a soft rag. Even in the hands of a professional, a power buffer can leave marks on the clear coat. Rust Belt residents should also take a pressure washer or at least a hose to the undercarriage and wheel wells to wash away any salt residue.

Clean the interior. Cleaning the interior is like spring cleaning your home. It should be a top-to-bottom approach. Shovel out all the clutter. Vacuum the carpet and seats; remove any stains on either. Don't forget the trunk. Rust Belt residents should remove any containers of salt or sand, shovels and any other emergency winter items in the cargo area. All that extra weight kills fuel economy, and you'll need the space for those vacation souvenirs.

Check the tires. In addition to checking their air pressure, tires should be inspected for wear and damage at least every three months. Your vehicle's spring maintenance checkup should be one of those inspections. Tires are required by law to have indicators in their tread design that appear when the tires are worn out. However, before leaving on a long trip, you should check the tread depth. Insert a quarter upside down into the tread at several places around each tire. If the tread doesn't meet the top of George Washington's head, consider replacing the tires. When uneven wear appears on the front tires, it could indicate the front end is out of alignment. A wear pattern in the center of the tire usually indicates overinflation. Check the air pressure in the spare tire.

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