Prepare Your Car For Summer

Get your car ready for summer fun by following a few basic steps for cleaning and maintaining a personal or commercial vehicle.

Just as many people like to give their homes a thorough spring cleaning, this may be the time to give your car a thorough going over. Most of us hit the highways more in the summer for business travel or recreation, so it is important to keep cars, trucks, and vans in good working order. Here are some things you can do to prepare your car for summer:

1. Do a visual inspection. Take a notebook and walk around your car to check the tires, body, windows, and mirrors. Then open all four doors to check the seats, floors, and dashboard. Make a note of every task that needs to be done and each repair that should be made. Then consult the owner's manual to see which scheduled maintenance should be performed. You also may have some idea of obvious needs or problems, such as time for an oil change, squeaking brakes, loud muffler, or broken shock absorbers.

2. Decide which tasks must be done immediately and which can wait until later when you have more time or money. Obviously bald tires need to be replaced for safety reasons, while a loud muffler may cost you a ticket if a police officer hears it. Make appointments for the maintenance chores you plan to do now. Mark the others on your calendar for upcoming weeks or months, then send yourself email reminders to make those appointments later. Check your budget to see if you have enough money set aside for needed repairs. If not, make budgetary adjustments or tap savings to fund the needed work.

3. Give your car's interior a thorough cleaning. Remove all clutter and trash, as well as kids' toys or books and seasonal items like mittens or windshield scraper. Vacuum the seats and flooring thoroughly, removing mats for a separate washing. Use a damp cloth to wipe off the seats and dashboard. Clean out the dashboard to remove unneeded items, and update your car's maintenance schedule with the work you have just done or plan to do. Clean mirrors and windows with glass cleaner.

4. Wash the outside of the vehicle. Use a finish-sensitive soap (and wax, if desired), rinsing thoroughly afterward. Use a sponge or other soft cleaning tool to rub headlights, brake lights, the license plate, and tire covers free of grime and dust or mud spatters. Use the hose to wash under the body of the car, taking care not to fill the exhaust pipe or other crevices with water that may sit there.

5. If your car is not scheduled for an oil change, check tire pressure with a gauge. Look at fluid levels and replace those that are low. Lubricate the door hinges if needed. Replace broken mirrors or burned-out lights as well as torn or frayed seat covers. Stock a blanket, flashlight, and water in the trunk, along with flashers and jumper cables, in case of emergency.

Your car will feel and smell fresher after your thorough cleaning, and you will probably enjoy driving more afterward. Try to do this spring and fall, or at least once a year, to keep your car running efficiently and looking great.

© High Speed Ventures 2011