You don’t have to be an auto mechanic, or a computer wizard, to handle many of your vehicle’s basic springtime needs.
According to Doug Muir, assistant service manager at Canadian Tire, there are several things most vehicle owners can do on their own, and save money in the process.
“Tire pressure is always an important one. With the temperature dropping, it can change quite drastically. They should be checked every month or so, but a lot of people forget when it’s too cold. So in spring, for sure, check your tire pressure.”
Battery connections are next on Muir’s list.
They always get corroded and dirty over the winter. The clamps should be removed and cleaned with a steel brush, some grease put on them and put back and tightened up. A dielectric grease is best. It’s designed for electrical components.”
Next, the air filter.
Even over the winter, there’s some dust in the air that can clog up a filter. So at least it should be checked to see if it’s clean. If it’s clean, fine. If not, replace it,” Muir advises.
“You can blow them out with compressed air, but most people can’t do that at home. They could bang it out—drop it on the ground and a lot of the dirt will come out of it. But if it’s greasy and dirty, it’s not worth playing around with too much. Just change it.”
For those who don’t mind crawling underneath, the next thing on Muir’s do-it-yourself list is an oil change.
“Most people change their oil spring and fall. The filter has to be changed. Remove the filter (using the proper wrench) and clean the housing of the filter. That’s one thing that most people tend to forget. If there’s a speck of dirt there, you put the new filter on, you won’t get a seal and it will leak,” Muir cautions.
When installing the new filter, forget the wrench.
“Filters should be put on by hand. As tight as you can with one hand usually does the trick. Do not put it on with a wrench and tighten it like crazy, because you’ll never get it off again next time around,” Muir cautions.
“We see them here quite often where you cannot get them off because they’ve been put on too tight.”
Muir recommends shampooing the engine with a spray-on degreaser, followed by a good hose-down with water.
“You can visually look at things then and see if things are leaking, or not in place. So that is a good thing to do.”
Checking the vehicle’s lights and replacing any that are defective is the next task. Most bulbs can be changed by the owner, but replacing headlight bulbs on some vehicles can be a major chore.
Next? Check the fluid levels.
“Power steering leaks in the winter are very common. Checking the level of all the fluids in your car is very important,” Muir says.
“Also, the condition of the fluid. If you check your coolant and it’s not the proper colour—usually they’re green, or orange—if it’s turned from green to brown, it’s a problem.”
The radiator should be flushed before adding new coolant.
Other easy-to-handle springtime chores include checking seals for leaks and belts for wear, rust-proofing hickeys that may appear over the winter and touching up stone chips with an inexpensive colour-matching paint kit.
With an electric drill and the right buffer attachment and compound, you can even make those yellowish, or grayish headlights clear again.