While your immediate focus will likely be on restoring your car, van, SUV or truck’s exterior and interior to pristine condition, make sure you also give its mechanical systems a careful once-over to ensure they’re ready to deal with the hot summer weather ahead, particularly if its an older or high mileage vehicle.
You can have your service technician do this for you – and many service shops offer spring service special deals – but by following some basic procedures you can spot potential problem areas yourself and then have them dealt with if necessary by a pro.
You should have been keeping your vehicle washed regularly to help keep rust at bay, but if you haven’t you need to do so before checking it over as it will be easier to spot damage or problems. A do-it-yourself spring cleaning process also allows you to flush out salt and sand deposits from areas that a quick run through the car wash often misses.
Don’t forget the radiator, which may have become partially clogged with debris. A fine spray and a fairly soft brush with long bristles can help here, but don’t be too aggressive and damage the thin fins. Visually check it for corrosion or leaks.
With the engine stopped and cool you can clean the compartment with an engine specific spray cleaner, followed by a rinse (avoiding high-pressure spray on electrical parts). This will not only make this area look good but often reveal problems.
Hoses should feel firm, not mushy, be free of obvious cracks and show no evidence of leaking at connections. Belts shouldn’t be cracked, frayed, brittle or glazed looking and should be firmly, but not too tightly tensioned.
Make sure the engine is completely cool before you check coolant levels. This can usually be done by looking at the reservoir which is marked with maximum and minimum levels. Never remove the radiator cap of a hot engine. If your coolant level is low you can add a 50/50 mixture of anti-freeze and water, but make sure you check it again in a few days and if it is down, or you notice fluid under the vehicle, you probably have a leak that will require attention. Car Care Canada recommends flushing your cooling system and refilling with fresh coolant every two years as the beneficial chemicals in the coolant break down with age.
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