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Springtime Maintenance for Fun and Profit

The warm-weather travel season is upon us, and chances are you’ll soon hit the road with your family for trips, activities, visits, and exploration.

With spring comes challenging driving conditions across the country including temperature fluctuations, reduced visibility thanks to heavy precipitation, potholes, and freshly awakened wildlife wandering onto roadways.

Few things provide confidence on the road like knowing your ride is up for handling your family voyages safely and with maximum efficiency. A thumbs-up from a mechanic, a tune-up, and some fresh fluids can go a long way to ensure your ride turns in worry-free and fuel-efficient travels.

Consider our list of springtime maintenance tips to make sure your ride is ready to tackle the season ahead.

Yank the winter tires
Once temperatures stay consistently above plus 7 degrees Celsius, it’s time to remove those winter tires. Running winter rubber in warm weather will quickly wear them out, result in a noisier ride, and may adversely affect safety.

Remember to re-torque your wheel nuts approximately 100 kilometres after having the all-season tires and wheels mounted. Not doing so could cause an accident. Follow the instructions of your mechanic or tire installer.

Stay cool
The warm weather will soon push two key cooling systems on your vehicle to their limits: the car cooling system, and the passenger cooling system (or air conditioner). Have both checked out ahead of the heat to ensure both will work properly when called upon. A mechanic can inspect your engine cooling system in minimal time, looking for signs of leaks as well as worn hoses and belts, and the condition of the coolant itself.

The air conditioning system is similarly easy to have checked out, too. If possible, find the condenser assembly (it looks like a small radiator) and clear it of any leaves, sand or salt buildup that may have accumulated over the past few months.

The underside
If you’ve hit any frozen-solid slush boulders this winter on the road, they’ve probably struck the underside of your ride harmlessly -- against something like your muffler or axle. Still, peace of mind can be had by asking a mechanic to inspect the underside of your vehicle for signs of damage, just to be safe.

Charging system and battery
A quick and simple check of your ride’s battery and charging system will tell a technician if there’s an electrical problem that could leave you stranded in a parking lot, at home or on the side of the highway. Also, note that a common cause of electrical problems in vehicles comes from a simple buildup of dirt and salt around the battery terminals. Because of static, contaminants are naturally attracted to this part of the battery, so locate the terminals and clean them with a wire brush if they’re caked with dirt and salt crystals.

See and be seen
With the increased risk of encountering wildlife on the roads and highways comes an increased need for maximum visibility from your ride. Check headlights for proper aim, replacing any burnt bulbs in the process. Your mechanic can help. Lose the winter wipers, as they will “lift” away from the windscreen at higher speeds which impedes effectiveness. Consider applying a water-repellant treatment, like Rain X, to your windscreen ahead of the April showers.

Alignment
If you’ve cranked any good potholes this winter or early spring, your vehicle’s alignment might be out of whack. Not only is this a safety concern, but it can affect drivability, shorten the life of your tires and waste gas. Check for signs of bad alignment yourself by ensuring tread wear is even across the width of your tires. Uneven treadwear is a good sign of an issue. Ask your mechanic for help if you’re unsure.

Fluid Check
Many mechanics say that fluid changes are the single most important part of maintaining the driveline of your ride. Winter is hard on your fluids, especially the transmission fluid and engine oil. Replacing these fluids increases your chances of worry-free travels for the spring and summer ahead.

Air filter
Air filters become dirty and clogged. That’s what they’re for. When this happens, they wind up impeding or blocking the stream of air to your engine, reducing performance and cranking up gas use. Constant exposure to dirt, sand, salt, and moisture over the winter months can clog an air filter in quick order, so be sure yours is clean and clear for the sake of performance and gas mileage.