Springtime Means National Car Care Month
As winter turns to spring, it is a good time to remind drivers to get their cars serviced to be sure they’re ready to hit the road for the summer driving season, but more importantly to give the vehicle a good checkup following the winter to ensure it will continue to be safe and reliable.
This past winter was a rough one for the Northeast, a mostly mild winter for the Midwest and a wetter than usual one for the West. This may have some drivers wondering if they really need that vehicle checkup. Because many parts of the country weren’t pounded by snow or plagued by temperatures in the single digits and below, many drivers may assume a mild winter means a tune-up, oil change or other vehicle maintenance is less important and it is something they can put off. That thinking could cost them in the long run.
“Springtime is always a very good time to get a car checked out, and drivers should be reminded of this fact,” said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council, which promotes its bi-annual “Be Car Care Aware” campaign each fall and spring.
The program is meant to encourage drivers to get regular seasonal check-ups in October and April, while promoting April’s “National Car Care Month.” The industry group also offers its Car Care Guide highlighting the benefits of preventative maintenance, as well as environmental awareness. It is all about highlighting the merits of prevention.
No matter what part of the country you’re in, one phrase likely rings true: it is time for spring cleaning. In the northern parts of the country this can mean yard cleanup after the winter, while even in the south and west the change in seasons can mean it is time to give the house and/or yard a good cleaning. The same efforts should be put toward ensuring a vehicle is taken care of after the winter.
“Winter can be rough on the cars,” said Justin Culper, automotive enthusiast and editor of Insider Car News. “Even areas that get only a little snow and ice can have salt on the roads. After winter you want to get the car to the shop to get the underside cleaned up. Even new cars need this, especially if you drive where there is a lot of salt on the roads.”
Many drivers are likely to only worry about what they see and Culper added, all drivers should be educated. There is much more that should be of a concern after winter.
“There is a misconception that you don’t need to worry about what you don’t see, as in salt on the side of the car. However, there is much of the car you don’t see, so it is a good idea to take the car in and have someone look at it,” Culper noted.
“The undercarriage should be examined after winter,” suggested Stephen Spivey, mobility program manager at the international automotive research firm, Frost & Sullivan. “Salt can create rusting on the brakes, especially if someone has driven in regions where there is a lot of salt on the road.”
Educating the driver about these issues should be crucial in the springtime, especially if a mild winter preceded, White added.
“Remind the driver winter is tough on cars. It isn’t just the salt, but the chemicals and dirt on the roads,” White noted. “An automobile is a heck of an investment, so it makes sense for preventative maintenance, which can be a lot less expensive than costly repairs down the road.”
Snow and the Cold
Further, spring is a good time for a tune-up because almost all the country sees temperatures drop in the winter — and even if it doesn’t mean weeks in freezing conditions, these fluctuations can be rough on vehicles. Of course, some parts of the country do get a much rougher winter, and this only intensifies the wear and tear affect.
“Extreme temperatures are a problem, and in a matter of weeks drivers could be facing much warmer temperatures,” White explained. “Pot holes are a huge problem, so drivers should be educated on how driving on rough roads can quickly damage a car in ways that aren’t so obvious.”
White added a car’s tires, wheels, suspension and alignment should be checked out after the winter and certainly before those family getaways and long road trips.
“That is a big one, as it can affect the performance and mileage you get, but most importantly is safety and dependability,” White emphasized. “A good cleaning should also be done to protect the paint job and finish, as that will help a car hold its value, too.”
Of course many drivers may think a mild winter means these issues aren’t a problem, but maintenance should not take the year off.
“We truly believe springtime is always a good time to get the car serviced,” White said. “Everyone is so busy all the time today, so it is good to set a time in April and get the car in there so it’s serviced before the summer driving season. Overall, basic maintenance goes a long way toward ensuring the safety of the vehicles.”
Penny of Prevention
The old saying, “a penny of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings true when it comes to the family car. In many households, the family car remains the second largest investment after the house, and National Car Care Month can remind drivers their investment should be protected even if they prepared for the winter.
“In many parts of the country there is a cyclical pattern to driving and maintaining the vehicle,” Spivey said. “A lot is always based on mileage, but a lot of maintenance can be done in the fall to winterize the car. This is something drivers are already being educated about.”
Spivey added the same post-winter attention to the car is often overlooked.
“Drivers tend to overlook what you need to do coming out of the winter,” Spivey said. “This is really important because of all those factors we’ve discussed. Making sure the car is tuned up in the spring will help ensure it runs well for the rest of the year and lasts longer.”
When winters are really bad, Spivey said, it isn’t a bad idea to consider an oil change even if it isn’t time. People overlook how rough really cold weather can be on a car.
“After a really cold spell in winter you want to consider at least checking the oil to ensure you have the right viscosity,” Spivey noted.
Culper agreed and said he always thinks about the oil in the spring and makes sure to pass on this fact.
“This isn’t about overselling or pushing a service, but it comes from basic, good old-fashioned communication,” White said.
One way to get the message across is to remind the consumer again, a little prevention goes a long way and can be cost effective as well.
“Shops should be proactive and teach drivers to be proactive,” White added. “Today, many drivers simply pay attention to the indicator lights, but what do you do if you’re in the middle of a long family road trip? It is better to tackle these problems ahead of time. Shops can help develop this type of habit, which helps the customer save time and money.”
Put another way, remind the customer they don’t go to the dentist to look for a problem but to prevent one.
“That analogy has been used for years, and it really suggests the best way to address the reasons for bringing in the car early,” White said. “Right now many drivers are experiencing a windfall that is coming from lower gas prices, so now should be the time to ensure the car is well maintained. Vehicle repair is largely unbudgeted today, and if you are saving money at the pump you should still reinvest it in your vehicle. The car gets you to work and takes you on vacation, so take advantage of the lower gasoline prices to reinvest it in the car. It will help ensure you’re not broken down on the side of the road, and it is cheaper than paying for expensive repairs down the road.”
Car Care Guide
The Car Care Council has published its guide, which boasts 20 pages of new materials for motorists. It is available free as an electronic or printed copy and is available in both English and Spanish. The Car Care Guide includes a range of topics: expanded environmental awareness section finding an automotive repair shop, alternative fuels, understanding the warranty, vehicle telematics and careers in the auto care industry. The guide covers major services, 12 component groups within the vehicle, service interval recommendations and more.
“We have provided this guide for shops to provide to their customers,” White said. “It is written in layman terms but offers all the reasons why National Car Care Month is so important. There is a lot of very helpful information, and we’ve made it available both digitally and in print form. We’re happy to send it to shops free of charge.”
For more information about National Car Care Month and the Car Care Guide, visit: www.carcare.org/car-care-resource/car-care-guide/
An Industry Tool Box, with facts about National Car Care Month and the Fall Car Care Month in October are also available online at: www.carcare.org/industry-tool-box/