12 tips for spring cleaning your car

Matt Cardy/Stringer/Getty ImagesSpringtime is when you should fix upo your car.
  • Spring is an ideal time to clean your cars and deal with maintenance and repairs.
  • You should change your oil, fix dents and scratches, rotate your tires, and check with your dealer about recalls – among other things.
  • You should also simply clean all the junk out of your vehicle.

Spring has sprung in much of the world after long months of winter.

Winter is hard on cars, so I think the transition from cold to warm is an ideal time to catch up on auto maintenance – spring cleaning, if you will, for your car.

Some of the more important details to attend to are oil changes and checking for rust and leaks. It can be difficult to focus on such matters when you’re business shoveling your vehicle out from snow drifts ever week. But with the arrival of spring, you’re out of excuses.

Here are 12 tips for spring cleaning your vehicle:

1. Change your oil. I advocate two oil changes per year, rather than the usual recommendation of every 3,000 miles. If you use the winter-to-spring and summer-to-fall transitions as reminders, you can change your oil using a high-quality synthetic and be fine. Synthetic oil costs a bit more, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind.

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2. Rotate your tires. Tire rotation is standard maintenance, but owners can easily overlook it. As with oil changes, the winter-to-spring transition is a good reminder. You want all four tires to wear evenly, so rotating them on a regular schedule is a must.

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3. Check all other fluids. Even if all you do is refill you windshield-washer reservoir, it’s essential that you make sure all fluid levels are good.

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4. Check for rust. Any small scratch or chink on your car’s exterior detail parts can invite rust. Winter is hard on exterior damage, so giving your car a once-over for signs of rust is worth the time.


5. Repair scratches. Serious body damage will require a trip to the body shop, but minor repairs can be done at home. There are companies that will match your vehicle’s paint colour and send you a kit that makes the job easy.

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Read about how to fix scratches.

6. Have your car detailed. This “deep cleaning” should cost around $US100 and will return your car’s exterior and interior to like-new status.

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Read more about getting your car detailed.

7. Replace floor mats. Winter kills floor mats, so spring is a fine time to decide if a new investment is needed. If you purchase ultra-tough floor mats from a company such as WeatherTech, the mats could outlast your car.

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8. Check for outstanding recalls and electronics updates. The easiest way to check for a recall is actually to call your dealer and ask. Automakers and their dealers are required to fix recall issues at no cost, but many owners aren’t aware that their vehicles are under recall. You can also determine whether your vehicle’s infotainment system of computer systems can be updated.

In the US, you can also search on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s recall-lookup tool, using your vehicle’s VIN number.

9. Assess your fuel economy. If your car is supposed to be getting 25 mpg in combined city/highway driving but is only getting 20 mpg, there could be a problem under the hood. So after refuelling, keep track of your mileage by resetting the trip odometer, and when you’re near empty again, calculate your MPGs. Deducting a gallon or two to account for not running the tank down to completely empty.

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10. Check for leaks. The older your car, the more likely it is to leak. I recommend placing a large piece of cardboard under the car and “reading” the leaks, if any. Oil is black, brake fluid is brown, transmission fluid is reddish, and coolant is yellow-green.

11. Check your brakes. Spring is a good time to determine if your brake pads need to be replaced, At the same time, your mechanic can assess the condition of your brake rotors. They shouldn’t need to be replaced if you’ve serviced the pads on schedule, but in some cases they’ll need be replaced as well.


12. Get rid of all the crap in your car! Our vehicles tend to collect junk over the winter months. Spring is the time to empty out all the cupholder, cubbyholes, and compartments. You should also remove any unneeded cargo from the trunk.

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