Give Your Car The Makeover It Deserves

Prepare your ride for warmer temps, from your undercarriage to your roof. Then roll the windows down and enjoy these longer, sunnier days.

Winter—with its blizzards, potholes, road salt and crazy temperatures—can be brutal on your vehicle. Leave it behind with this easy checklist to help make sure your vehicle works well (and looks sparkling!) inside and out.

1. Start with the easy stuff: Clean the interior.
It’s not as much fun to drive when you’re surrounded by a sea of trash. First, throw out all the wrappers, napkins, receipts and random junk that’s gathered on the floor and between seats. Remove any winter tools like brushes, ice scrapers and shovels. (Keep nonseasonal emergency items like a flashlight, jumper cables, blanket and a tool kit.) Check the glove compartment to make sure your insurance and registration papers are up to date.

2. Vacuum and scrub the upholstery.
Use a handheld vacuum for the seats, floor and trunk, and use crevice attachments to get into nooks and crannies, like underneath seats. Wipe off the dash and other hard surfaces, such as cup holders, with a wet cloth or a Motorcraft® dusting cloth, which polishes surfaces with a special wax. Use an upholstery cleaner or fabric-safe stain remover on non-leather seats—or rent a steam cleaner from your local grocery or home store. A mild detergent and scrub brush is all you need to get salt off the floor mats and carpeting. If your floor mats are worn out, replace them here.

3. Work on your windshield.
You may be shocked at how grimy the interior of your windshield and windows can get from fingerprints, but it’s nothing a little ammonia-free glass cleaner can’t fix. Once you’ve finished the inside, head outside to check your windshield-wiper blades for wear and tear. They tend to suffer the most damage in the winter months, when ice and snow can warp the rubber, decreasing their effectiveness. Change your own windshield wiper blades or take your vehicle to your local dealer for replacements.

4. Details, details, details.
Inspect the exterior for problem areas, like tree sap, bird droppings or paint chips. Before you wash the entire car, treat the trouble spots with detailing spray or Motorcraft® bug and tar remover, if necessary. Note any chips, swirls or dents, and get them treated at your dealer.

5. Give it a wash and wax.
Scrub your vehicle from the top down using a lambswool mitt and a bucket of Motorcraft® detail wash. Attack stubborn dirt with a nylon or natural-bristle brush and a little elbow grease. After you’ve rinsed your vehicle and allowed it to dry, apply wax in a circular motion using a microfiber or foam applicator pad, then remove any dried wax with a microfiber or all-cotton cloth. For more car-cleaning tips, read this.

6. Remove salt from the undercarriage.
The beginning of spring is a great time to get a thorough car wash—just make sure it includes an under-spray. The winter’s road salt can seriously corrode your car, because it accelerates the formation of rust, which can damage exposed parts. It’s also bad for your vehicle’s finish. As a preventive measure, consider having the car professionally waxed and sealed.

7. Focus on fluids.
Now that your car is squeaky clean, it’s time to move on to the exciting topic of fluids. Don’t skip this part, because coolant, in a 50/50 mix with water, is vital to your engine. Too little fluid or the wrong ratio can seriously damage your engine, so it’s important to keep your levels up. Consider using Motorcraft® coolant for the best results. Next, you’ll want to fill up your windshield washer fluid. You may need to adjust the dilution from season to season—more alcohol helps keep the washer fluid from freezing. Read the product instructions to find out the proper amount to use.

8. Check your tires.
After a bumpy winter barreling over snowy potholes and lumpy roads, head to your Ford Dealer Service Center, where certified technicians can check your alignment with state-of-the-art equipment. If you’re using winter tires, swap them out for summer ones. At the very least, check the tire pressure to help with efficiency. Use a digital gauge for a more accurate reading, and fill the tires to the proper level as listed on the vehicle certification label found on the driver’s doorjamb.

9. Change your oil.
Don’t forget to have your oil changed. For optimum efficiency, most vehicles need an oil change every 7,500 miles or six months.

10. Hit the road and enjoy a beautiful spring drive.
Enough said.

By Liz Arnold

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