Spring Cleaning for Your Car

Dale Bertram
March 9, 2012

Spring cleaning has always been popular and just like our homes need it, so do our vehicles. Today we’ll talk about getting them clean underneath it all!

During the regular use of your vehicle, the fluids that protect critical components wear out, causing unneeded corrosion and wear. Harmful deposits like carbon, scale, sludge, and rust sneak in and steal the vitality and life from your vehicle. But, if maintained regularly, your vehicle can exceed 200,000 miles or more without incurring expensive repair bills. Here’s what to do:

Oil Change
The engine is the most expensive part of any vehicle, so preserving it is vital. Motor oil reduces the amount of friction on the engine’s moving metal parts, preventing them from overheating and prematurely wearing. Over time, motor oil oxidizes, producing harmful sludge that can reduce engine cooling and plug passages necessary for oil lubrication. The easiest way to prevent sludge buildup and reduce friction is to follow the oil change schedule in your owner’s manual.

Transmission Service
Over 90 percent of all automatic transmission failures are due to overheating and fluid contamination. Transmissions operate under widely adverse conditions and expose the transmission fluid to wild swings in temperature. Dirty and contaminated fluid can cause erratic shifting, excessive chatter, and premature wear. Transmissions should be serviced every 3 years or 50,000 miles. This can be done via traditional transmission filter and fluid replacement (40 percent of the fluid is replaced) or by exchange service (95 percent fluid replacement, but no filter replacement).

Cooling System Fluid Exchange
Cooling system failure is the #1 cause of engine-related breakdowns. Minerals in water combine with the additives in coolant, forming scale. Scale buildup can cause decreased heat transfer on the surfaces of the radiator and heads, which can cause overheating. Coolant also breaks down over time, losing its anti-corrosive properties. This can lead to leaky radiators and water pumps, stuck thermostats, and plugged heater cores. The cooling system fluid should be exchanged every 2 years or 30,000 miles to prevent scale and corrosion buildup.

Brake System Fluid Exchange
Brake fluid absorbs moisture. This lowers the boiling point of the brake fluid, reducing braking performance. In addition, moisture causes brake fluid to become corrosive, which can damage the master cylinder, wheel cylinders, brake lines, and ABS components. To prevent a spongy brake pedal and unneeded repairs, brake fluid should be exchanged every 3 years or 50,000 miles, or at least whenever brake pads/shoes are replaced.

Fuel System Cleaning
Residual fuel vapors leave behind carbon deposits that restrict the flow of air and fuel to the engine. These deposits will rob your engine of fuel economy and may cause stalling, knocking, loss of power, or hard starting. A complete three step air/fuel induction flush performed every 2 years or 30,000 miles will improve engine performance and reduce emission output.

When you get into spring cleaning this year, don’t forget that underneath it all, your vehicle needs to be cleaned, too!

Happy Motoring!

Dale Bertram

About the Author

I am an ASE-certified technician and have owned my own auto repair business, Fairway Auto Repair, since 1991. I am also an AMI graduate with a AAM degree, and continue my education by taking various courses during the year. I am a hard core car guy. Basically if it isn't mechanical, I'm not interested in it. This passion for vehicles has driven me throughout my life. My hobbies are my cars. I have two 1968 Camaros and a 1971 Camaro that my son and I built. I also raced an IMCA modified dirt track car for 10 years. In the last few years, I have been involved with autocross and road course racing events.  I have been married to my wife, Lorie, for 28 years and we have two children, Kaila (16) and Landon (13). I also enjoy the outdoors and hiking. Please check out my shop's page at

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