Auto IQ: Easy post winter car care

By AMA Staff

Winter is now in the rear view mirror. But don’t assume your car escaped the season unscathed. Subzero temperatures, road salt and other wintry elements can negatively impact your vehicle, which means spring and summer is a great time for basic maintenance—and a tune-up by an Approved Auto Repair Services shop.

The basics: Perform a few visual checks to confirm your car’s condition. Check the oil and make sure windshield wipers are performing properly. Look at your battery, too. Randy Loyk of AMA Automotive Services notes that most batteries last three to five years. If yours is older than that (the date should be noted on the battery), or if you see evidence of corrosion, consider a replacement. Book an appointment with AMA’s Mobile Battery Service (free for members) to have an expert test your battery’s strength. They’ll deliver and install a new one, if necessary.

Do-it-yourself: If your car’s hood sticks a bit, the latches may be to blame. Primary and secondary latches should be cleaned and lubricated to remove any damaging road-salt buildup. Repeat the process for hinges and locks on vehicle doors and the trunk. Don’t worry if you can’t find every latch: Get them lubricated as part of a garage tune-up.

Seek professional help: Keeping everything well lubed is the most important reason to take your car for seasonal service. Motor oil reduces friction—and therefore, wear and tear—on engine parts, but it breaks down over time. Replacing it regularly is one of the best things you can do to keep your vehicle in good working order. While at the garage, have the mechanic inspect your car’s timing belt, fuel line and any hoses. “Cold temperatures cause rubber to be more brittle and belts to crack a bit more,” Loyk says.

Tire talk: By now you’ve likely swapped out your winter tires for warm-weather wheels. But it’s a good idea to periodically check each tire’s air pressure to ensure it meets your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended level, which is typically noted on the door well or inside the glove box. And don’t forget the spare tire—it’s easy to overlook.

By the book: For more general tune-up info, Loyk suggests checking your owner’s manual maintenance schedule: “If you don’t follow it, you can run into some costly problems.” But if you do, the long-term benefits will be improved performance and reduced repair costs for your beloved ride.

—with files from Omar Mouallem