Spotlight

Spotlight

Getting your car ready for spring, summer travel season

Posted March 23
Updated 12:19 p.m. Friday

This story was written for our sponsor, LeithCars.com.

The first day of spring was March 20, but the Triangle seems to have left winter long before then.

Outdoor and travel enthusiasts are now brainstorming weekend plans, and North Carolina has beautiful places to visit from the mountains to the coast, so there is plenty to see and do.

Before you hit the road, though, it's always good to make sure your car is up for the job.

Cosmetics

Winter driving takes a toll on your vehicle. There are likely months of grime, sand and salt caked on the undercarriage.

You can deal with this by visiting a local drive-through car wash, but it may pay to have a more professional job done. Having your car scrubbed and waxed by experts will yield much more thorough results.

As you traveled for the holidays and your daily commute during the winter, you likely accumulated just as much grime inside. Additionally, spilled drinks, dropped fries, kids' messes and much more is lying beneath your seats, in your trunk and on your dashboard.

Before putting a layer of summer gunk on top of it, you should probably have it detailed by a pro.

Leith : Spotlight : Spring & Summer Driving

Check Your Tires, Lights and Wiper Blades

Sometimes it can be hard to tell when important functions like your tires, lights and wiper blades are failing.

Tires lose tread in harsh, winter conditions so it is important to be able to identify when your tread is wearing.

A quick way to do this is the "penny test." Flip Lincoln's onto his head and insert the penny into your tire tread; if you can see all of his head, your tread is worn out and it is time for new tires.

In addition to checking your tire tread, rotating your tires keeps them from uneven wearing and extends their life. They may need to let some pressure out of your tires, as well.

During the winter, tire pressure decreases so people often fill their tires up a little more. That same strategy won’t work in the summer however as the pressure will be higher because of the increase in outside air temperature, making the tires now overinflated.

"Our cars contact the road on a small patch of tire," pointed out Charles Sanville, master technician at Leith Volkswagen of Cary. "A tire in poor condition impacts traction, steering and braking. You want to be sure that small contact area is in optimum condition."

Sanville explained a good tire check-up would include "setting the tire pressure as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer."

He added, "Next, inspect the tread for depth and wear pattern, less than 2/32 of tread can fail an N.C. state safety inspection. We can also check for signs of dry rotting on each tire and with your car on the lift, we can inspect the wheels for damage. A damaged wheel can lead to a vibration while driving."

Windshield wipers also take a beating during the winter with all the road salt and sand needing to be wiped off your windshield.

Since they need to be replaced every once or twice a year, it's a good time to check their strength.

Headlights, taillights and turn signals can be checked quickly at night when you're parked at home. Just turn each set of lights on and off, and test the right and left blinkers.

Scheduled Maintenance

In the past, there were many parts that needed to be replaced frequently. Now, it is more a matter of your mechanic checking things, and changing fluids and filters.

Coolant is an especially important level to check. In the summer heat, having low radiator fluid puts your engine at risk of overheating and leaving you by the side of the road.

Your car's electrical system, which is the battery, starter and alternator, should also be thoroughly checked to make sure it is properly charging.

"Before the warm weather traveling season is definitely a good time to have your car looked over," Leith Automotive Service & Parts Consultant Kirby Morrow advised. "If you have an oil change scheduled, also have your mechanic check your battery, your radiator cap, radiator fluid, air filter and windshield wiper fluid. It could be a good time for a radiator flush too, depending on the mileage of your vehicle."

Hit the Road

If you've made sure your car is in working order and all the winter grime is washed off, you're ready to go.

North Carolina has so many great places to visit within driving distance. The Outer Banks and Wilmington are popular for beach goers, and the Asheville and Boone areas provide a great reprieve from the extreme temperatures for those who get overheated.

Roll the windows down and find your new favorite warm-weather album -- spring and summer driving season has arrived.

This story was written for our sponsor, LeithCars.com.

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