WILLING WHEELS: Local auto experts give advice for National Car Care Month

Grant D. Crawford | Daily Press

Rusty Gardner, left, and Juan Roque work on a vehicle at Port City Body Shop in Tahlequah.

The winter weather is gone and the conditions are just right for some spring road trips. With April serving as National Car Care Month, it’s time for drivers to get their vehicles into gear and ready for the upcoming warmer months.

While most car enthusiasts know a thing or two about keeping their vehicles in good condition, the average driver knows little about the inner workings of their automobile. Fortunately, cars these days tend to last significantly longer than older models, but it’s important that people have their vehicles properly maintained if they want to get the most life out of it.

Perhaps the easiest maintenance to remember is having the oil checked and changed, as most service stations will leave a sticker on the windshield to let drivers know when it’s time to come back in. Chris Blish, of Chris’s Quick Lube, said the summer time is harder on oil than it would be during the winter, so it’s best that motorists get the oil checked every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, or else it will stop serving its purpose.

“Oil is what causes the lubrication, and, eventually, it no longer becomes a lubricant,” Blish said. “If you lose the lubrication, you create friction. The friction seizes up the motor and now you’ve got just a block of metal.”

Vehicle filters should get changed or at least looked at every oil change, or every other oil change. While at it, service workers can check out the fluids when taking care of the oil.

“Some folks will just do the basic minimum, and then they’ll not have the other fluids checked,” said Blish. “Then come summer time, they’re low on antifreeze or engine coolant, and it becomes an issue.”

A car can’t roll anywhere without its tires. Just as drivers are encouraged to check their tire pressure leading in the winter months, they should do so again heading into summer. Greg Stone, of Port City Body Shop in Tahlequah, said the hotter the tires, the more they will wear prematurely.

“The lower the pressure is, it’s going to heat up more, because it’s supposed to have a certain amount,” said Stone. “Summer and heat tears tires up. Then, every now and again, we get the crazy rain, so if you’re tires are in poor condition it can be a dangerous situation, because you can hydroplane.”

According to the Car Care Council, a nonprofit organization dedicating to educating motorists about the importance of regular vehicle care, now is a good time to test the exterior and interior lights, and have bulbs there are not working checked and replaced. People should also replace their windshield wipers every six months or when cracked, cut, torn, or streaking, for optimum wiping performance and safety.

Drivers who want to keep their vehicle looking good might want to give it a good wash. Cleaning off the road dirt, bird droppings and residue from rain can prevent damages to the surface of the vehicle.

Stone said car owners should avoid parking under trees so leaves and sap don’t fall on the vehicles.

“Anything manmade can’t handle the nature, whether it’s bird droppings or insects,” he said. “You want to get a good wax – a sealer – to kind of protect your paint through the summer months from the heat and elements.”

Nobody wants to be stuck in a hot vehicle when temperatures reach their peak this summer. So it’s a good time for motorists to get their car’s HVAC system inspected to keep the inside of the vehicle feeling comfortable.

Other vehicle maintenance recommendations include: checking the brake system, including the brake linings, rotors and drums; inspecting the exhaust system for leaks, which can be dangerous if not corrected quickly; and having the car’s alignment checked, which will reduce tire wear and improve fuel economy and handling.

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