Is Your Car Ready for Warmer Weather?

Weather Talk

POSTED: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 1:00pm

UPDATED: Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 10:10am

Taking a few minutes to check you vehicle can make your spring driving worry-free.

I was checking my air pressure in my tires yesterday and I though of all the things I need to check as our temperatures start to warm up. My father-in-law, Jesus, has taught all 3 of his daughters how to maintain and do minor repairs on their vehicles. Rosario checks all my fluids on my vehicles and she has even helped her father replace a radiator, fuel pump and engine computer! Her family says “aren’t you embarrassed that you do not know how to repair your own cars?” I say, “No, I am proud of Rosario’s skills!” I grew up with a doctor father; he just took the car to the shop to have things fixed. He paid way too much sometimes to not so legit mechanics. He taught me the basics checking the tires, jumping a battery, where to check the fluids, oil, antifreeze transmission, wind shield wiper fluid, etc… The Borderland is starting to warm up as we transition to spring, we had record high temperatures this past weekend and El Paso will be close again today and Wednesday. I though I would write in today’s “Weather Talk” some tips on how to prepare your care for spring.

My father-in-law Jesus has worked as a mechanic for more than 40 years. He repairs diesel and gasoline trucks at a big cement company and has been working there for more than 23 years.

Here are some of his tips for preparing your car for the warmer weather.

TIRES

First, you need to check all the tires. Spend a couple bucks on a tire gauge. Make sure they are all filled to the manufacturer's recommended pressure, as they tend to lose air of the winter months. Properly inflated tires will get you better gas mileage. Also, check the air your spare tire. This can save you in case you have a flat. Make sure the tread is still good and they are not worn to smooth on the side of the tread.

HOSES AND BELTS

Winter's cold, dry weather wears on your car's hoses and belts. Look for cracking and leaking. Catching problems now can mean the difference between a swift, inexpensive repair and breaking down on a road costing you much more. Pull on the belts, and if they feel loose, it would be wise to have them checked at your service shop or dealership. When the engine is warm, not hot, a gentle squeeze of the radiator hoses can give you an indication of whether a hose might need replacing. Obviously, if there's a leak somewhere or you smell coolant, you should have the cooling system checked out. An overly soft hose is a sign that you should replace it.


SPARK PLUGS

Worn-out spark plugs can drastically reduce your fuel efficiency. Check your spark plugs systematically before the winter and summer seasons and replace them if needed. You can easily shave off a few dollars in labor and part costs if you know how to replace them on your own.


BRAKES

At this stage, you're probably wondering what kind of stunt you'll have to pull off in order to test out your brakes without actually running anybody over. It's quite easy; speed up in an empty parking lot and step on the brake pedal abruptly. Calculate how long it took for your car to come to a complete stop. To gage if the braking time is adequate, take note of the braking time when your brakes are new. This way, you can just compare the two times. Also, listen for any irregularities in sound; when your brakes are older, you'll generally hear a much louder sound compared to the smoother sound you get when your brakes are new. This method of measuring your brakes is not scientific, but it is usually a very good indicator to gage whether or not your brakes need replacing.

CHECK FLUIDS

Reach under the dash on the left-hand side, and pull that lever way down under there. Then release the secondary catch at the front of the hood, and raise the big piece of sheet steel that covers the engine. You might want to refer to your owner's manual. It will tell you where the various fluid bottles are. Each bottle usually has a dipstick or a fill line. These should all be tended to when you take your car in for service, but you can keep an eye on them in between, too. Antifreeze keeps your engine from freezing in the cold temperatures in the winter, but also helps maintain a cooler temperature in the summer heat. As I mentioned before, if you smell coolant, there may be a leak somewhere and it is best to get your cooling system checked out. We tend to use a lot of windshield-washer fluid. It's important to see clearly through the windshield, so check this one regularly.

WIPER BLADES

Windshield wipers should be changed twice a year. You may want to take a good look at how your wipers are cleaning the windshield. If they're leaving streaks, even if it's just on the passenger side, it's about time for a change. It is definitely a good idea to swap them out before our “monsoon season” rainstorms. Most cars have specific-sized blades, so be sure to get the correct ones for your car. One-size-fits-all is not a good thing when it comes to wiper blades. Don't be afraid to spend a little extra on a good pair. It's worth it in the end.

SPRUCE IT UP

A Good trash clean out Vacuuming does a car good. The first step is to make your cloth seats look great by absorbing as much of the dirt on them as possible. Use a sponge or a spray with dry-cleaning fluid, and wipe off any apparent stains. You can also apply warm water and vinegar, and rinse off any residue with water afterward. Keep repeating the procedure until all the stains are gone or at least less visible. For oil stains, on cloth or carpet, sprinkle the area with cat litter and rub the surface with a soft cloth. You can also sprinkle dry sand over the stain to absorb as much oil as possible. Brush it off and wash the rest with simple dishwasher detergent. You can now buy some good touch up paint to cover up small scratches on your exterior paint. A good wash and wax is a nice finishing touch.

I guess we all have a bit of weekend work ahead of us to prepare our vehicles for the warmer weather. Most of these things can be done on your own, helping you save money. If you have to go to a mechanic, do not be afraid to price compare. Let them know that the guy down the street is doing it for less. Have them put their quote in writing and tell them to call you before repairing anything that is not on the list. That way there are no unexpected costly additional repairs. Also, ask around for a reparable mechanic.  Jesus, knows after years of experience what to watch and take care of to help keep your vehicles running like they should. Taking a few minutes to check all these basic items can make your spring driving worry-free.

Chuck DeBroder, Chief Meteorologist
KTSM, NewsChannel 9, NBC, El Paso, TX
cdebroder@ktsm.com
www.facebook.com/Charles-DeBroder
www.twitter.com/ Chuck DeBroder NC9 @wxchuckNC9
 

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