The weather this winter has been unusually difficult—making it hard to get where you need to go and putting extra strain on your vehicle. Luckily, your next spring road trip is just around the corner! You’ll soon enjoy milder temperatures, less rain and snow, and blossoming of the beautiful flora the Northwest is known for.
With warmer weather on the way, now is the perfect time to get your car road trip ready for fun spring adventures—whether you’re headed to the coast or planning a family camping adventure. Here are nine great tips for getting your car in tip-top shape, so you can avoid any unexpected surprises that may affect your spring travel plans.
1. Thoroughly clean your vehicle’s exterior
The combination of salt and sand used to de-ice major roads in winter can be highly corrosive to metal. It therefore has the potential to damage the body and drivetrain of your vehicle. The best way to prevent this is to thoroughly clean your car’s exterior to get rid of any salt, sand, and dirt buildup. You can easily do this at home, or take your car to the local car wash. Once you’ve completely cleaned off all of the dirt and grime, apply wax to protect your car’s paint job.
2. Check your tires
If you installed snow tires this winter, there are a few steps that you should take before switching back to your regular tires. Start by thoroughly rinsing the area, then apply lubricant to the threads of the lug nuts to prevent them from getting stuck in case you need to change a flat tire later this year. Even if you didn’t switch to snow tires this winter, this is a great preventative action to take to avoid any tire issues down the road.
3. Inspect your brakes
When the roads are clear in spring, people tend to drive faster—putting more stress on your brake components than winter driving. That’s why it’s important to inspect your brakes before hitting the road. If you see rust flaking from the edges of your brake pads or any cracks in the braking material or hoses, it’s a smart idea to visit a mechanic for a proper brake check. That way, you can prevent sticking, pulling brakes, and any premature wear—keeping your vehicle in great shape and ensuring your safety.
4. Clear moisture from your vehicle’s interior
In winter, it’s common for moisture to seep into your vehicle’s interior—especially if you drive an older car or tend to park under trees or other vegetation. Removing this moisture is key for preventing corrosion, mold spore growth, and electrical system wear. To get started, look for tell-tale signs like your windows fogging on the inside, the smell of mildew inside your car or trunk, or water accumulation under your spare tire. If you spot any of these issues, you may have a water leak and should clear the moisture out of your car to prevent further problems—whether on your own or with the help of your local auto shop. You may have also tracked in snow and ice to your vehicle’s interior. In that case, you should remove your mats and put them somewhere to dry.
5. Check your oil
Be sure to inspect your oil to make sure that it’s an amber color. If it’s black, it’s time to replace it. Take your car to the shop for an oil change or do it yourself. If you only drive short distances and keep your car outside, you may want to change your oil even if it looks clean. Oil tends to accumulate damaged compounds faster in winter due to lower temperatures and higher humidity.
6. Check your antifreeze
Antifreeze (also known as coolant) does more than keep the water in your cooling system from freezing—it also prevents it from corroding, lubricates the water pump, and raises the boiling point of the water. That’s why it’s important to keep your levels full year-round—not just in winter. You can buy premixed antifreeze, ready for doing it yourself, or visit an auto shop for help. If you choose to do it yourself, check your owner’s manual for the type of coolant you should use. Some car manufacturers now use specific formulas. You should always avoid mixing different types of coolant. It could cause your car to overheat and prevent it from performing at its best.
7. Inspect all of your car’s other fluids
While you’re checking your antifreeze levels, inspect all of your car’s other fluids—like transmission, power steering, brake, and windshield washer fluids. Be sure to top off any that are low in accordance with your car’s owners manual recommendations. Pay special attention to your brake fluid—it should be clear or amber. If it looks brown or black, it’s time to change it. If you take your car to the shop for an oil change, they’ll often check fluid levels and top things off for you, but be sure to ask the mechanic to confirm.
8. Check your battery and battery connections
Your car’s battery is often overlooked and under-serviced, but it’s a crucial component. As part of your AAA membership, you can schedule a battery and electrical test at your convenience—for no extra charge. We’ll come to your location and give your vehicle a thorough battery, starter, and charging test. Then, we’ll let you know if it’s ready to handle the demands of spring driving, so you can have peace of mind for your spring road trip.
9. Check your other equipment
Make sure that your windshield wipers, inside and outside lights, and air conditioning are functioning properly. If your wipers or lights aren’t working, you can often fix the problem yourself by swapping out your wiper blades or lightbulbs. Or, visit a AAA-Approved Auto Repair Facility to have them take care of it for you.
Spotting A/C problems early is important, as a simple recharge will likely take care of the issue. Waiting too long to service your A/C system can often lead to additional, more complicated issues and repairs. As such, it’s best to be proactive and stay on top on it. Keeping your A/C in tip-top shape is important not just for your comfort, it’s also key for safety, as the most efficient way to defrost windows is to run your air conditioning and heater simultaneously.
All of these tips are simple checks that you can do to help your car recover from winter’s extreme weather and keep it operating at its best this spring. If you don’t have time to take these steps yourself, visit a AAA-Approved Auto Repair Facility. They’ll get your vehicle ready for a spring roads trip in advance of temperatures warming up.
Find a AAA-Approved Auto Repair Facility Near You
Whether you’re around the corner or across the country, remember that AAA is always here to help. When you encounter unexpected problems on the road, call us to quickly get back to doing what you love. Wishing safe spring road trip driving to all of our AAA Oregon/Idaho members!