Spring Awakening

By Chelle Cordero

April 3, 2017 5 min read

As we transition out of winter, it's time for a seasonal refresh. Preparing our cars for spring and summer helps to protect our investment, maintain fuel efficiency and keep our ride clean and comfortable. Summer road trips, daily commutes and family outings are bound to be more enjoyable. These helpful cleaning tips are do-it-yourself and can even bode well as family activities.

*The Interior

Traveling is a bit more messy during wintertime. You've got extra driving supplies, like an ice scraper and tire chains, in your trunk; and boots track slush, dirt and road salt inside onto the mats.

Start with a preliminary sweep of the car to remove trash and unneeded items. (We all have those empty coffee cups, that spare sweatshirt and that year-old granola bar floating around.) Store items you want to keep in an organized fashion in side pockets or compartments. One Consumer Reports online article states, "Leaving things loose not only creates clutter, but items left on seats, the rear shelf, or dashboard can become deadly projectiles in a crash."

Next, shake out your floor mats, and use a mild cleaning spray and microfiber cloth to wipe dust and grime off the dashboard and plastic surfaces. Use anti-bacterial wipes to disinfect all surfaces that you touch with your hands, including steering wheel, radio, gearshift and car seats. Why? One USA Today article, "Is your car making you sick?", notes that one study in London shows an average of 700 different kinds of bacteria within car interiors -- that's more than are found in the average public toilet! Your car will be especially ripe with germs after flu season.

To get a little deeper, vacuum the interior from top to bottom, getting into every nook and cranny. Fight stains with a household upholstery cleaner. A steam cleaner (which can be rented) should work well to remove deep stains.

One often-neglected element of car interior care is detailing. Leather trim, the dashboard and other non-fabric surfaces dry out over time and must be treated to prevent cracking (and protect resale value). Research online for detailing products.

Lastly, don't forget to go through the above steps for your trunk or cargo space. And while you're back there, check the tire pressure and tread of your spare tire.

*The Exterior

First things first: Give your vehicle a thorough scrub-down. Use a dedicated car wash soap for this job. Work from top to bottom, applying soapy, sudsy water with a natural sponge or lambs wool mitt. It is essential to use a clean sponge because even the tiniest grit can scratch the paint. Use a separate sponge for the tires and wheels, as they are likely the dirtiest part of the exterior. Dry the car immediately wish a soft towel to avoid water spots.

Waxing the exterior protects the paint. Whichever type of wax you use, whether liquid, paste or spray, test the product in an inconspicuous area first.

If you relied on winter tires, change them out to your regular tires. This is an easy do-it-yourself task if your tires are already mounted and balanced.

*Maintenance Checks

Spring is a great time to check your vehicle for wear and tear due to harsh winter conditions.

Winter can do a number on tires. Consumer Reports notes: "You can easily check tread depth by inserting a quarter into a tire's deepest grooves, head pointing down. If you can see the top of George Washington's head, that means you have 1/8 of tread or less, and it's time to start shopping for new rubber." Additionally, check to make sure your tires have enough pressure. Studies show that highway fuel efficiency decreases when tires are underinflated, not to mention the fact that they can compromise handling and braking.

Head under the hood to check the battery. Interestingly, summer can be harder on your battery because of temperature's impact on chemicals. Have your battery tested, and if necessary, replace it. If the terminals are encrusted with white fuzz, clean them with a damp rag soaked in a solution of water and baking soda.

These tips are the first step to happier and safer spring and summer travel.

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