Seasonal Car Care

Seasonal Car Care

Seasonal Car Care


You wouldn't dream of facing winter's ice, snow and sleet without a coat, gloves and other cold-weather gear, would you? Your car deserves the same level of protection. This article will help you prepare your car to make it through a cold, wet winter season and a long, hot summer.


Your car is in for a tough time this winter. Your car's paint, tires, glass, plastic and other surfaces will be at the mercy of the elements, including wind, rain, sleet, snow, sand, gravel, cinders, salt and road oil. Fall is your best opportunity to inspect and prepare your car with a protective layer, giving your car a fighting chance. Your car's paint, tires, leather and rubber trim all need touching up in the fall, even if you have cared for them all summer.


  • 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 Blackfire Crystal Seal.

    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 YOUR CAR'S 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. One of our favorite Leather products is the Wolfgang Leather Combo. 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 CAR'S TIRES - Worn tires won't give you the traction you need on wet, icy roads. If your tires are worn, replace them with a good set of all-weather radials. For extra grab in the snow, get a pair of snow tires. Once you have adequate tires on your car you need to keep them protected from the harsh environment they see throughout winter. The McKee's 37 Tire Coating Kit comes with everything you need to clean and protect your tires throughout the harshest weather, and provides a barrier to the elements and to the ozone that can cause rubber to deteriorate. The Acrylic Formula is a great solution for winter, as the coating can easily last up to 12 months! If you live in a region that gets snow and ice, you can also use this coating on your wheel wells to prevent buildup of snow, ice and road salt. It's best to take a few hours out of your schedule to get these products applied before the really cold weather hits.
  • DON'T FORGET YOUR CAR'S 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. For a Trim Sealant that can make it through the weekend, check out the Blackfire Total Trim & Tire Sealant.
  • PROTECTING ROADSTER AND CONVERTIBLE TOPS - If you drive a roadster in cold winter weather, now is the time to clean and protect your top. If water penetrates your top and then freezes, your top will be prone to severe damage. Use the correct protectant from Raggtopp Products to protect your top before the first freeze hits.
  • INSPECT WIPER BLADES AND FLUID - Don't forget to inspect your windshield wipers. Replace them if there's any sign of wear. Remember, you're going to be counting on your wipers to deal with the elements. While you're at it, check your wash fluid and add a good wash booster like Pinnacle GlassWork Windshield Washer Booster. A good wash booster will help cut through road salt, road grime and mud so you can see.
  • CHECK YOUR CAR BATTERY - If your car is more than 5 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 AND OILHave 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 10,000 miles or once a year, whichever comes first. Your oil service interval will depend on the age and manufacturer of your car.


    Winter is finally over! Yoohoo! If you're like me, this means a couple of things. Like once again it's time to clean up the garden for spring flowers. And the car needs a good checkup and cleaning in preparation for warmer weather.


    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.
    • Engine, Belts and Hoses - Winter is very hard on your engine, including belts and hoses. The cold, salt and dirt leave their mark on your engine and can leave your 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 your engine with Sonus Trim & Motor Kote.
    • Brakes - Spring is also 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 occasionally running your A/C throughout 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, yet in reality, cold winter starts cause the most damage to moving parts. Flush the winter oil as soon as possible.


    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 to ensure all of the salt from winter has been removed. 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, which is why I recommend using an aggressive car wash like Chemical Guys Clean Slate Surface Cleanser Wash.
    • Clean and seal - A strong detergent solution alone will not remove all contaminants from your car's paint. To bring your car's paint back to life and remove minerals on the surface, use a pre-wax cleaner or fine polish. My personal favorite pre-wax cleaner is Pinnacle Paintwork Cleansing Lotion. If your car's paint feels rought (like sandpaper) you will need to Use a Clay Bar to remove contaminants. If your paint has scuffs and scratches, you will need to Polish Your Paint. After cleaning and polishing, protect your car's paint with a quality wax or sealant.
    • Treat your Interior - 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 like Wolfgang Glass Polish on your windshield and windows to remove the winter grime, 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.


    Do you own a garage queen? You know, a car that you pamper and don't take outside during inclement weather? If you do, your garage queen may need extra special care.

    I took my garage queen out today, just before sitting down to write this chapter. It's not that we have winter weather in my home town; far from it. I simply had other projects that occupied my time this winter.

    When I finally got around to taking my car out for a nice Sunday drive, I found it dead as a doornail. The battery was history. No amount of electrolyte or charging would bring it back to life. So, I broke down and replaced the original battery with a heavy-duty unit. Lesson learned, again! Keeping the battery on a quality trickle charger like the CTEK Multi US 4.3 12 Volt Charger would have saved me from this expensive mistake.

    After getting the new battery installed and the car started, I took her out for a warm-up around the block. I was horrified to feel my car going "thump, thump, thump" as the flat spots on the tires slapped against the pavement. It figures, doesn't it? I didn't take my own advice to over inflate the tires before putting her away for such a long time. Strike two!

    I was lucky we had a warm day. I came back to the garage and filled the tires to 50 PSI and went for another drive. After 10 minutes the car was running smoothly again, and I returned home to adjust the tire pressure to normal inflation.

    You might have already guessed that my bad news was not over. I hadn't fired up the A/C yet. I was crossing my fingers before flipping the switch, because twice before I had allowed a car to sit, and the seals or A/C compressor failed. Who would guess that the A/C needs to be run regularly to keep from failing? Phew! At least I didn't have that problem this time. But, yuck, what's that smell?

    Strike three, I had mildew. Mildew is one of those things you really hate to get in your A/C system. The only good way to kill it yourself is with a quality A/C and heating system cleaner. The product I prefer is Wurth A/C & Heating System Treatment. It quickly eliminates mildew, moisture, bacteria, and mineral deposits that emit unctuous odors.

    Learn from my mistakes. Properly prepare your car before putting it away for winter. The best advice I can give is to drive your garage queen on dry days to keep the battery charged, tires round, A/C fresh and functioning, and moisture out of the crankcase.


    Winter preparation, especially in cold climates, will help your car make it to spring in good condition.If you take a weekend before the cold weather sets in to change the oil, check the tires, change your wiper blades, check your battery and coolant, and polish and wax your car, you'll be ready for winter's worst. Likewise, after winter it's important to clean your car thoroughly, treat and inspect.

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