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LEAVES: YOUR CAR'S WORST ENEMY?

Plus 5 other unlikely culprits that could be hurting your vehicle

It’s no secret that vehicle service and maintenance seldom make the list of top driving pleasures. So the last thing you want to happen is to get dragged into the garage over things you can avoid. Here are simple preventive care tips in dealing with six stealthy troublemakers so you can save time, money and grief.

1. Leaves

Sap, tannic acid and pollen from leaves can stain and damage your paint finish, especially if the leaves get wet. So make sure you brush off those maple leaves, fern fronds, and pine needles the next time you decide to park in the shade. Stains aren’t your only leaf worry. That beautiful fallen foliage can disguise road hazards such as potholes, soft verges and deep patches of water. Be sure to avoid parking over piles of leaves, as the hot muffler or catalytic converter could even cause these piles to ignite.

Additionally, accumulating leaves under the hood on the vents will restrict airflow but also, if ignored, possibly rot and rust your car, negatively impacting your cabin air supply. You can learn when to replace your cabin filter by reading this article and how to do so by checking out this infographic.

2. Bird droppings

Bird droppings will corrode your paint finish. As the heat of the day warms your car, the exterior metal expands and becomes porous, allowing acid from bird droppings to penetrate your car’s clear coat. As the exterior metal cools at night, the clear coat hardens around the droppings, which now can penetrate the base coat.

To avoid this acidic etching, clean any bird droppings off of your vehicle as quickly as possible. A handy way to always be prepared is to keep a spray bottle of Motorcraft® Detail Wash (available for purchase at fordparts.com) and a soft cloth on board your vehicle to wipe away your troubles before damage occurs.

3. Sea air

If you live by the coast, be warned: Sea salt spray and excess moisture will accelerate the corrosion process for metal. Be sure to clean off your car’s undercarriage and other metallic parts consistently. For good measure, use a rust inhibitor and cover your vehicle with a waterproof tarp. Consult these vehicle cleaning tips to help further protect your car and give it that showroom shine.

4. Road salt

Road salt will help prevent you from careening on slick ice in the winter, but it also can cause serious exterior corrosion if you don’t take preventive measures. Stop salt from eating away at your car’s undercarriage and body by cleaning your vehicle consistently and having it waxed and sealed by a professional. Want to be even more prepared for winter driving? Follow this simple checklist.

5. Cold

The cold can stop you in your tracks in three ways: slowing your battery, thickening your car fluids and deflating your tires.

Battery: Your battery works when chemical reactions generate electrons to supply the current. These chemical reactions slow down in colder temperatures, sometimes causing the battery to stop functioning. To help prevent this from happening, have your battery checked for corrosion, aging and other damage (even if it seems to be working fine) at your local Ford Dealer Service Center where you can get it inspected as part of The WorksTM Package. Your battery could be near the end of its useful life and could leave you stranded soon. Always carry battery jumper cables to assist yourself and others. Be sure to check out this article on how to jump-start your battery.

Car Fluids: Check and maintain your vehicle’s coolant level to make sure your engine is running at the right operating temperature. Coolant serves the dual purpose of making sure your radiator fluid doesn’t freeze in cold and boil in heat. Make sure you use Motorcraft® coolant for the best results (available for purchase at fordparts.com). Read this article on how to add coolant for more detailed instructions.

Tire pressure: Every time the temperature drops by 10 degrees, tire pressure drops by 1 psi, so check and maintain your pressure more often in colder weather. Your dashboard may be equipped with Ford’s Tire Pressure Monitoring System that will let you know if any of your tires are significantly underinflated. Learn more about proper tire inflation and how to spot tire damage by reading this article.

Tire Grip: Tire performance suffers as temperatures dip below 45° F. While most all-season tires can handle light snow, they aren’t built for winter performance, especially if you’re located near the Snow Belt. Get some winter tires to keep safe and avoid the risk of losing traction. Created with more aggressive tread design, deeper sipes and cold-temperature compounds, they will help you grip an icy or snowy road with confidence.

6. Delayed maintenance

According to polling research, more than one in two car owners delay servicing. Postponing these critical checkups and repairs compromises vehicle safety and reliability, likely causing more serious and more expensive problems down the line. Regular maintenance will do wonders in extending your vehicle life and helping keep you and your loved ones safe. Make sure you service your battery, get your oil changed and have your brakes checked and replaced periodically or as use necessitates. Schedule an appointment at your local Ford Dealer Service Center on FordService.com.