Through preparation, time, money and mechanical skills, your vehicle survived the winter. Spring has arrived, and once again, you will need to prepare your vehicle for the upcoming season. Many people will take their vehicle to a shop and say, “Call me when it’s done,” while others won’t maintain their vehicle at all. But you, you’re different. You’re going to pop the hood and get your trusty steed ready to take to the road.

Checking the tire pressure and wiper blades and cleaning the interior are maintenance 101 for you. You’re more concerned with the inner workings of the vehicle. Start with the battery. Check the posts and connections. Make sure they are free of corrosion and making good contact. The same goes for the spark plugs—clean them if necessary. Spark plugs can fire three million times every 1,000 miles, so proper operation is crucial.

Check the oil and oil filter. Your vehicle’s manual will have recommendations on how often to change the oil and filter. A good rule of thumb is every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Make sure you are using the correct grade of oil. The outside temperature is now warmer, and as you probably know, oil gets thicker when it’s cold and thinner when it’s hot. Using an oil grade of 10W40 means that the oil will flow at a 40 viscosity rate during the warmer spring months.

Another filter to check is your vehicle’s air filter. The air filter keeps dust and other debris from getting into the engine’s moving parts. Dust and debris in your vehicle’s engine can cause it to be less efficient and underperform. It is a good idea to replace the air filter annually or every 12,000 to 15,000 miles.

Next, check the coolant level. The radiator on a cold engine should be completely full. The reservoir should be at the “cold” level. Again, check the vehicle’s owner’s manual to determine when the system should be flushed and fresh coolant added.

The next level to check is the brake fluid level. If the level has fallen below the “low” mark, it may indicate excessive brake wear or a leak somewhere in the system. Unless you are certified to repair brake systems, you should take the vehicle to someone who is. This function of the vehicle is too important to not be overseen by a professional.

Check all the belts and hoses. Winter could have damaged these parts. Replace any fraying belts or bulging hoses.

Being a do-it-yourselfer can be rewarding and save you money. But keep in mind that your vehicle is one of the most expensive things you own. It can also be dangerous if not properly maintained. Do your best to do it yourself, but consult a professional if you’re not sure what you are doing.


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