Kick Winter to the Curb With These Spring Car Care Tips

CARS.COM — I’m so over winter with its neverending snow, the shoveling, the icy sidewalks and streets, and seemingly everything covered in a layer of road salt. Winter is tough on all of us, but it’s especially hard on your car. (For those lucky folks who live in a warm-weather state, move along.)

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The start of spring is officially a few days away, but we all know it won’t be here in earnest — with its warmer temps — for a while longer. Yes, that’s depressing, but right now is a good time to give your vehicle a little TLC with some of my favorite spring maintenance tips:

Bath Time for Your Car

After a long winter, my red-colored car is so covered in dried road salt that some would say it looks pink. Wash away all signs of winter with a run through the car wash, and make sure to pony up for the undercarriage wash to remove all that hidden road salt and grime.

Treat Yo Self!

This is a step beyond a car wash, but if you really want to undo some of the ravages of winter, have a detailer polish your car to remove the small scratches on the hood from overly enthusiastic ice scraping. And while you’re at it, get your car’s paint ready for summer’s intense heat and sunbeams by applying a fresh coat of wax.

Time for an Inspection

Take a few minutes to check your tires for pot hole damage, like a tire with a bulge or bent wheel lip. Your eye will catch only the badly damaged bent wheels and you could be losing air, but you’ll likely feel tire damage at highway speeds. Look for tire vibration at highway speeds or a crooked steering wheel, courtesy of a bent front suspension.

While you’re checking your tires for signs of damage, make sure to check the air pressure, too.

De-funk-ify Your Floormats

The unsung heroes of your car’s interior, floormats, need some serious attention in the spring. Remove them from the car, give them a good shake, then vacuum up any debris. And while you’ve got the vacuum going, make sure to hit the footwells, too.

If the floormats still look rough, give them a thorough washing. With rubber mats, use soapy water to scrub off any gunk, then rinse. For carpeted floormats, use a carpet cleaner to lift away the embedded dirt. Here are my go-to tips for removing salt stains from carpeted floormats.

Before you replace the floormats, make sure they’ve completely dried to avoid introducing a mildew smell to your car.

What’s That Smell?

You’ve cleaned your floormats and hopefully cleaned all the garbage out of your car, but there’s still an odd smell that you can’t seem to place. It could be your car’s cabin air filter (or it could be the french fry your dear child left under the seat three months ago). This is the filter that outside air passes through before entering the cabin. Think of it like a furnace filter in your house — you know the one you’re supposed to change regularly? If it’s been a while since you or a mechanic has changed your car’s air filter, it’s past time to do it. And if your car sits outside like mine does, be prepared to find a mini-arboretum in that old filter.

Look, I get it. Car maintenance is likely the last thing on your to-do list, and not exactly something to get excited about. It probably doesn’t even make the cut to get on the to-do list, but it’s like movie night at your child’s school: Sometimes you just need to suck it up and do it for your child’s sake — or in this case, your car’s sake.

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