Taking regular care of your car is the best way to ensure your investment lasts a long time and continues to serve you well. From regular maintenance to seasonal tips and accident advice, we want to help you stay happy with your vehicle!
Winter Car Care : Paint, Interior & Tires
Seal the Paint
If your car will be exposed to extreme winter conditions, the best protective coating is a good synthetic wax. Unlike carnauba waxes, a synthetic wax provides a modest amount of protection against water and road salts. The product I trust to hold up to winter's worst is Klasse.
Your car is more likely to be scratched during winter due to all of the potential debris on the road. As moisture penetrates deep scratches and chips in your car's paint and repeatedly freezes and thaws, it weakens and eventually cracks the surrounding paint. This allows oxidation to rapidly set in. A quick and easy way to reduce oxidation caused by winter road damage is to wash your car as often as possible, and inspect for paint chips and scratches. When you find new paint chips, seal them with your synthetic wax.
Treat the Interior
Winter is also hard on leather interiors. Cold, dry air pulls the moisture from leather, so it's important to treat leather prior to the onset of freezing temperatures. Once the daytime temperature dips below 50 degrees (Fahrenheit), the leather will not accept conditioners. Although the surface will look good, you have not provided moisture to the hide.
Protect the Tires
Your car's tires have a tough job in the winter, too. Liberal use of a high-quality tire dressing keeps them looking good during the harshest weather, and provides a barrier to the elements and to the ozone that can cause rubber to deteriorate. Tire gels are a good solution in winter, as they seem to last longer.
If you live in a region that gets snow and ice, another easy tip for winter car protection is to spray tire dressing in the wheel wells to prevent buildup of snow, ice and road salt. Any inexpensive silicone spray dressing will do. Although not recommended for your exterior painted surfaces (it makes body shop repairs difficult), silicone is an excellent protectant for your engine, wheel wells, and the underside of your car. It's best to start this practice before the really cold weather hits.
Winter Car Care : Wheels, Trim, Battery & Fluids
Care for Delicate Wheels
If your car has expensive, delicate wheels, think about removing each wheel for winter preparation. Delicate wheels should be cleaned, inspected and sealed. Clean each wheel, front and back, with an extra-strength gel wheel cleaner. Scrub the tires thoroughly, too. Dry the wheels with a clean terry cloth towel. Protect with a high-quality paste wax or acrylic sealant. Complete the job by treating the tires (front and back) with a liberal application of tire dressing. Allow the tire dressing to soak in for 5 to 10 minutes before wiping off the excess.
Don't Forget the Trim
Other parts of your car's exterior, such as the bumpers, trim and rubber door seals, need extra protection when the mercury drops, too. These materials are affected by extreme temperatures and the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation causes fading, hardening and cracking, especially in the winter with a reduced ozone layer. When properly maintained, door and trunk seals will maintain their shape and elasticity longer, providing a better seal.
Don't Be Caught with a Dead Battery
If your car is more than 6 years old, think about replacing the battery. Every January or February there comes an especially brutal subzero morning that drains the last bit of power from weak car batteries. Even if your battery is relatively new, you should inspect it before winter arrives. Make certain the terminals and posts are free of corrosion (clean with baking soda and water), lubricated and tight.
Change Your Antifreeze & Oil
Have the cooling system checked for the correct concentration and level of antifreeze. If your vehicle needs additional antifreeze, follow the manufacturer's recommendation for the ratio of water to antifreeze. If your antifreeze is more than 2 years old, it should be flushed and refilled.
Changing your car's oil and filter is the best way to prolong engine life. If you live in a harsh winter climate, late fall is the best time to change your oil to be ready for winter. Most manufacturers recommend an oil change every 5,000 to 15,000 miles or once a year, whichever comes first. Your oil service interval will depend on the age and manufacturer of your car.
Spring Maintenance Checklist
When the weather begins to change from winter's gloom to the glory of spring, most of us get more active outside and begin using our cars more. Before getting into the full swing of warm weather, take time out to give your car a good spring cleaning and a maintenance checkup:
Wiper blades - Your wipers got you through winter, wiping away rain, sleet, snow, leaves, mud and more. Consider replacing your wiper blades now so you can drive squeak and streak free during April showers and summer thunderstorms.
Grille and under-the-hood cleanliness - Check your radiator grille and the cowl (hood area just ahead of the windshield) for accumulated debris from winter. Remove leaves and other trash. Buildup in these areas may cause your engine to overheat or your air conditioner to blow warm air.
Cooling system - Lift your hood and check your antifreeze. Fresh antifreeze is vivid in color (usually bright green). Dirty antifreeze looks dull or rusty. In most cases, you should flush your antifreeze every 24 months.
Belts and hoses - Winter is very hard on belts and hoses. The cold, salt and dirt make rubber hard and brittle, so it's a good idea to check your belts and hoses every spring. I suggest cleaning your engine each spring to remove winter's grunge. After cleaning, treat all hoses, belts and other rubber parts with a generous helping of rubber dressing.
Brakes - Spring is a good time to check your brakes. The most obvious warning sign is brake noise, squealing, screeching, chatter or grinding. Your brakes should also be checked for corrosion, which can lead to premature brake failure.
Air conditioning - Spring is the best time to check your air conditioning (A/C) for proper operation. Most people forget to run their A/C during the winter months, which can result in premature failure of seals and compressors. I recommend running your A/C all winter.
Oil change - Many of us change our car's oil before winter to get ready for the cold. With the coming of spring, you should dump the old winter oil and top off with fresh oil for warmer temperatures. Many people think that summer months are the hardest on the engine. In reality, cold winter starts cause the most damage to moving parts. Flush the winter oil as soon as possible.
Spring Cleaning Checklist
In addition to basic mechanical checks, spring is a good time to clean up your car and give it the protection it deserves. Here's what I recommend for spring cleaning:
Undercarriage flush - With the onset of spring, all car owners should have their car's undercarriage flushed. The easiest way to do this is to find an automated, touchless, carwash with an undercarriage wash feature. If you drive on salted roads, I recommend going through the wash twice. I also recommend thoroughly cleaning your wheels and wheel wells.
De-grunge - No matter where you live, if you drive your car in winter weather, your car gets covered with grunge. To remove the grunge, you need to wash your car with a strong detergent; most car wash solutions do not have the strength to cut through the dirt. I recommend using a solution of 1 ounce of Dawn dish-washing detergent to 3 gallons of cool water to wash your car. Rinse thoroughly.
Clean and seal - A strong detergent solution cannot remove all contaminants from your car's paint. To bring your car's paint back to life and repair minor surface damage, use a pre-wax cleaner or fine polish. My personal favorite pre-wax cleaner is Sonus Paintwork Cleanser. If your car's paint feels rough, you need a cleaner. If your paint has scuffs and scratches, you need a heavier polish. To recondition paint by hand, try Sonus SFX-1 Restore Polish. After cleaning and polishing, protect your car's paint with a good wax or sealant.
Treat - If your car has a leather or vinyl interior, it needs to be treated before the onset of summer's heat. Cold winter weather dries leather and vinyl. Adding heat and UV radiation to dry leather and vinyl causes the material to break down until it eventually fades and cracks. It's not necessary to clean your leather and vinyl before treating, but running a damp towel over it to remove dust and dirt is a good idea.
Glass and chrome - Winter makes its mark on glass and chrome, too. Both glass and chrome should be polished in spring. Using a good glass polish on your windshield and windows will remove the winter grime and buff out water spots and minor surface abrasions. Likewise, chrome needs to be cleaned and polished. Chrome will rust quickly if it is not kept polished and treated.
Car Accident Tips
Being involved in a car accident that requires repair services is a stressful experience. By keeping these tips in mind you can ease the difficulty of the process and get resolution quickly.
Make sure you get the name of the other driver and his or her address, telephone numbers, license plate and state, license number, insurance company and policy number and the telephone number of his or her insurance agent.
Do not discuss "fault" or make statements about the accident to anyone but the police.
Notify your insurance company or agent. Do it as soon as possible even if you're far from home and even if someone else caused the accident.
Get a copy of the police report of the accident from the local precinct.
Whatever you send to the Insurance Company, make sure that you send it Certified/Return Receipt Requested. Make copies of everything for yourself. If the Insurance Company sends you forms to complete, do it in a timely manner.
Don't accept offers to settle for payment on the spot without thinking about it carefully. You may be held liable later for the same damages.
Your car is the second largest investment you're likely to make. Preserve its value and your safety by having it repaired professionally.
Never drive a car that could be unsafe because of damages.
Some insurance companies may want you to visit their drive-in claims center before having your car repaired. You can do this, or you may leave your care at our shop and ask that the insurance company inspect the car here.
You are not required by law to obtain more than one estimate or appraisal. You have the right to go to the repair shop or your choice. Your insurance company cannot require you to go to a particular shop.
Difference in repair estimates are common. A lower estimate may not include all necessary work. If you're not sure why one estimate is different from another you've received, please ask us.
Choose a shop that has unibody repair equipment and certified (by I-CAR or ASE, for example) technicians.
Let us help you negotiate your claim with the insurance company.