SOURCE: Exxon Mobil

May 17, 2010 08:00 ET

Seasonal Car Care

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - May 17, 2010) -  (Family Features) After a brutal winter across the U.S., the bitter chill has finally stopped biting. However, before you speed into activities such as replanting the garden, staining the porch, or fixing up the lawn, step on the brakes and be sure you do your seasonal car maintenance.

"Winter is harsh on our vehicles," says Amy Mattinat, car care expert and owner of Auto Craftsmen, an independent auto sales and service facility located in Montpelier, VT. "Low temperatures, snow, ice and road salts take their toll, causing an undeniable need for some serious car care."

Mattinat suggests you follow this simple checklist.

  • Thorough car wash
    Take advantage of the warmer weather and spend a fair amount of time cleaning winter filth off your car. Dirt and salt that built up over the past couple months can hurt a car's paint and undercarriage by making it vulnerable to rust. Give the exterior a good scrub and don't forget to spray the underbody and underneath the bumpers, as well. Finish the job with a waxing to preserve your car's shine.
  • Tire swap, rotation, and pressure
    If you have winter tires on your car, it's time to swap them out for all-season tires, which deliver better traction in a wider range of roadway conditions. If you don't have winter tires, it's equally important to have your all-season tires rotated and balanced for a smoother ride and improved fuel economy. In addition, cold weather can reduce tire pressure, so be sure to check them for proper inflation. Under-inflated tires are not only a safety hazard, they can also reduce fuel economy and decrease the lifespan.
  • Oil change
    If it has been a couple months since your last oil change, chances are you need another one. To prevent engine wear, you must change your oil and oil filter regularly as specified in your manual. If you're still using conventional oil, consider a switch to a synthetic such as Mobil 1, which is specifically designed to provide outstanding wear protection and help keep your engine clean and running smoothly.
  • Brake check
    You have likely been hitting the brakes a little extra in the winter, trying to avoid icy patches or other hazards. A quick inspection of the brake system, including lines, hoses and the parking brake, can uncover any winter damage. If you hear excessive grinding, squealing or screeching, get the brakes checked immediately. Also, inspect the brake fluid for proper level; low brake fluid can be an indication of a leak or excessive wear.
  • Battery check
    Car batteries work overtime in the winter. The colder it gets, the more battery power is drained. Test old or weak batteries (especially ones that are more than a few years old). Inspect the terminals and posts to be sure they are free of corrosion, have enough lubrication, and are tight. If you spot corrosion, try cleaning it with baking soda and water.
  • Air conditioning test
    You don't want to wait until a hot day to realize your air conditioning is not cooling you down. To test, turn the air conditioning on high and to the coldest level. The air coming out the vent should be 55 degrees or less (a vent thermometer can be purchased for a cheap price at an auto parts store). If the air is warm, has little pressure, or you hear unusual noises, schedule a service appointment now to have someone examine belts and hoses for wear, deterioration or refrigerant leaks.

For more helpful tips on vehicle maintenance visit