8 Places to Check on a Vehicle after a Long Cold Winter

hands checking power in vehicle engine
  • 1-30 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-500

Your car may be looking forward to the warmer months as much as you are. Get ready for the next season of driving with some basic inspection points.

1. Tires

hand checking tire pressure with gauge

Fluctuations in temperature make a big effect on the pressure within your tires. Readings during the winter will be different than those when the temperatures begin to rise.

Take the car for a short drive before testing tire pressures. Then make sure each tire’s pressure reading falls within the allowable range.

While it seems obvious to make sure they have enough pressure, too much pressure is very dangerous so release pressure if necessary.

In addition to the pressure, unless your car has been stored for winter you’ll also want to check the tread thickness.

If you don’t know what you’re looking for, stop by the local tire center for an evaluation. Experts can also watch for thinning or damage in other areas.

2. Fluids

One of the best things you can do to ensure proper function of your vehicle is to maintain fluids.

This includes radiator, brake, windshield, transmission, and power steering fluids.

In addition to making sure they don’t run low, you’ll want to identify whether they need to be changed.

Most fluids are easy to replace by draining them out and adding fresh ones, but head to a service center if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself.

3. Windshield Wipers

You should check your wipers at least twice each year. After the freezing temps, snow, and rain of winter, you’ll want to make sure they are still in good shape to tackle spring weather too.

Check windshield wipers again in the fall after the hot summer sun beats down on them for months, which can cause them to dry out, crack, and tear.

4. Battery

hands with device checking car battery

If your battery is going to fail, it typically happens during a cold morning in the winter.

However, if your battery performed throughout the season, check it to ensure it keeps on keepin’ on.

In addition to making sure it’s holding a charge, some batteries require a fluid check.

Also clean the terminals with a brush and make sure they provide a tight connection and corrosion is removed.

5. Rust

Cold weather, snow, ice, and salt on the roads wreak havoc on a car’s metal parts.

When the winter weather fades away, give your car a good wash, watching for exposed areas where paint has chipped away.

Bare and unprotected metal is an offer for rust growth. If you already had a patch of rust going into the winter, it may have worsened.

Deal with it before another year of seasons passes you by.

6. Wiring and Hoses

Car engines work hard in every season and each time of year brings its own problems. Freezing temperatures and wet conditions can cause hoses to freeze, perhaps leading to bulges or cracks. Work your way through the engine checking the connection and integrity of each hose.

Also confirm the electrical system is working as expected. Check tail and brake lights, the heating and cooling system, power components, lights, etc.

7. Oil

pouring fluid into car engine compartment

Even if you changed your oil in the fall, it’s probably time again. Regular oil changes are a must for proper vehicle maintenance.

If you change your oil at home, keep a log of the date and mileage at the time. Regular oil on an older vehicle should be changed every three months or 3,000 miles.

This used to be the standard for all vehicles, but as engines and oils have become more efficient, the new standard is about every 5,000-7,500 miles or six months.

Take into account your driving frequency and needs when deciding how often to change your oil. If you mainly make short trips without hitting the highway, your engine doesn’t get as hot and the oil breaks down faster. On the other hand, if you regularly have a long commute, you can change your oil less frequently.

If your car runs on synthetic oil, as many now do, you may be able to go as long as 10,000 miles before swapping it out. However, all oil will degrade over time so even if you don’t rack up the miles, you should still change it a minimum of every six to twelve months.

8. Brakes

Every season should come with a brake check. Either take a look yourself or have a professional provide their opinion.

If you’re having the tires looked at, most shops can provide an evaluation of your brakes too.