Getting rid of winter road grime

Winter can be hard for everything, especially cars and trucks that have been on the roads during the bad weather. Hopefully, the snow and freezing weather are over for the year and its time to consider cleaning up the winter damage which create extra wear and tear on the vehicles everyone depends on for transportation. At the same time, the car or truck can be readied for summer driving.

Certainly, the first thing for car care after winter is to keep the engine running well. And as long as possible.

A common practice is to let the engine idle to warm the car up in the winter. While that may increase the comfort of the driver and passengers, as well as help out in the task of cleaning snow and ice from the windows, it uses extra fuel, collects carbon and dirt in the oil, carbons-up the engine and PVC valve. It may also clog fuel filters.

An engine should have clean oil for summer driving, so check that oil condition. If looks or feels dirty, an oil and filter change is probably wise. If the grit can be felt between the fingers, how much worse is it on constantly moving bearings and cylinders. Not only will an oil change get the winter crud out of the engine, it is another step towards preparing the car for hot summer driving.

While the oil is being changed, have the air filters and PVC valve checked. A wise move following a nasty winter may be gas treatment added to the next tank of fuel for injectors, carburetors and fuel tanks to add to the life of the engine. Gas treatment cleans carbon deposits in the engine and gets rid of water which may have condensed in the fuel system.

This could improve summer fuel mileage as well.

It may be time for a basic tuneup if the car is not running right, or if a decrease in average gas mileage has been noted. Remember, though, lower mileage in the winter could just mean you’ve been letting the car warm up for 15 or 20 minutes before actually driving it. The exterior paint is important to clean after a winter of driving on salted and cindered roads, but the underparts and running gear are actually more important to clean for making a car last longer.

The underside may not be in sight as the painted surfaces are, but there are a lot more nooks and crannies underneath. Those hard to see places are hard to clean, since they collect salt, cinders and other debris. Just because winter is over doesn’t mean the damage stops. The cinders act a little like sandpaper on the metal and plastic, but at least it can be washed off with relative ease.

Salt, on the other hand, is grit with sharp edges when dry, but dissolves when wet. That means it can be taken into seams, joints and crevices with the wash and rinse water where it can continue to damage a car or truck.

And as long as any winter debris is present, damage can continue. To prevent or at least slow the development of rust and other deterioration, wash the undercarriage well.

Don’t forget to check the rubber boots on the CV joints in front and four-wheel drive vehicles. Cracks in the boots may be from age, but cold weather, ice and snow can certainly cause damage. The boots aren’t the only problem. If the lubricant leaks out and water and grit go in, the lifespan of the CV joints can be greatly shortened.

Be sure to check the windshield wiper blades. It is probably a good idea to check the wiper blades at least every three months since both winter cold, snow and ice as well as summer heat can damage wiper blades.

Also check tire condition, including tread depth, and tire air pressure. A properly inflated tire in good condition provides safer driving in both winter cold and summer heat. The air conditioner refrigerant levels should be checked.

Equally important in both winter and summer driving, are the levels of engine coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid and windshield washer fluid. Check out the battery condition, age and the connections. Batteries can fail in winter or summer. Don’t forget to see if the lights are working properly. Headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals are all important.

Remember, the seats, dash and carpets are likely to last longer if cleaned occasionally. Cinders on the carpet may be a visible sign of needed cleaning, but salt may well do more damage, not the least because it remains unseen while it does its damage of cutting the carpet fibers.

And at the very least a cleaner car should make the owner feel better.

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