Now that winter has come and gone, it is the ideal time to go over your truck and perform some preventative maintenance and basic care. Since April is National Car Care Month and the weather is getting warmer, we put together a list of things you should do to your vehicle now. A little extra care can help keep your truck driving and looking like new for years to come.
Give your Truck a Good Cleaning
If you live in a colder climate, it can be hard to wash your truck during the winter months. Water spigots located outside typically need to be turned off when the temperature drops. Taking the truck to a car wash is the only option for some of us in the winter, so there is a good chance you might not clean it as often.
If you live in a region that gets snow your truck has probably also been subjected to road salt and brine solutions. Besides washing and waxing the exterior, make sure to thoroughly clean the undercarriage and rinse all the salt residue off. Pick-up trucks are notorious for rust in the rocker panels, lower edges of the bed, bed rails, and worst-case scenario, the frame. Take compressed air and blow out any leaves/dirt that may have accumulated in hard-to-reach areas and could retain water. A little extra elbow grease cleaning the bottom side of your truck can really help to prevent rust from forming.
If there is any visible surface rust on the frame use a combination of wire brushes and wire bush wheels to remove it. For heavier rust, a carbide abrasive wheel and/or flap wheel on an angle grinder can be utilized. When you are done, make sure to protect these exposed areas with a rust protective coating and chassis paint. This will help slow down the spread of rust and keep it from getting worse.
Check the Tires
Anytime there is a big change in temperature it is a good idea to check the air in your tires. For every 10 degrees the temperature drops, it is possible to lose 1-2 psi in your tires. If you do not have a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) or have not checked the air pressure in a while, make sure they are not too low. Also do not forget about the spare tire. If the spare has not been checked in a few years, there is a good chance it might be too low. You never know when you might need it.
This is also a good time to rotate the tires. It is normally recommended to rotate them every six months or 6,000 to 8,000 miles. Tire rotation can help extend their lifespan and improve performance. During rotation, each tire and wheel should be moved to a different position to ensure that all tires wear evenly and last longer.
When you rotate the wheels, wash (and wax) the barrel of the wheels while they are off the vehicle. This will help protect the finish on the inside part of the wheels. When these are neglected for too long, they get to the point of no return and the finish can no longer be revived.
Check Fluids & Filters
Most of the fluids and filters in your truck should be replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. Keeping a detailed log of the exact mileage (and the date) each fluid and filter is changed can be extremely helpful. Even though most of the maintenance is typically based on a mileage or time schedule, this can still be a good time to give everything a quick inspection. Start by checking the oil and transmission fluid to make sure they are not too low, the color still looks good, and they pass the smell test. Smelling the fluids can help reveal if they are burnt or if other fluids such as gas or coolant have gotten into your crankcase.
Next examine the coolant, power steering, and brake fluid. Coolant is extremely vital in a diesel truck. Coolant/Anti-freeze testing tools and test strips are available to determine the strength and condition of your coolant. Checking the differentials and transfer case can be a good idea to make sure the fluids are not burnt or brown. There is a good chance your washer fluid reservoir is low from plenty of use in the winter, so be sure to top it off.
Finally, take a quick peek at the air filter and cabin air filter (if your vehicle is equipped), and make sure they still look clean. Any paper filters that are dirty should be replaced, or if you have a high-flow reusable filter, simply clean and re-install.
Turn on the A/C
Although it might not be hot enough for the A/C just yet, depending on where you live, it can still be a good idea to run it now. Just turn the air conditioning on for a few minutes and make sure it is still blowing cold. There are multiple benefits to not letting the A/C sit idle for an extended period. Running the A/C occasionally during the fall and spring can keep the system from deteriorating. Keeping the refrigerant and oil flowing will help condition the hoses and seals so they do not get dry and brittle.
Inspect the Wiper Blades
Inspect the wiper blades and check for tears. If the blades are newer and still in good shape, you can take some glass cleaner and a towel to clean the rubber blades. If they are torn or still do not work that well even after cleaning, it is time to replace them.
Clean the Interior
The final steps of the spring maintenance can be spent inside the cab. Start by taking out the floor mats and vacuum the carpet. During the winter getting in and out of your truck with wet shoes (covered in snow and salt) can start to make a mess. If you have carpet-style floor mats vacuum those too while they are out of the vehicle. Rubber floor mats or floor liners, such as WeatherTech or Husky, can be rinsed off and washed before re-installing. A little extra time spent cleaning will keep your carpet looking like new for a few extra years.
Finally, if your truck has leather seats, apply a leather conditioner. It is a good idea to condition your seats at least twice a year. Keeping the leather soft and supple can prevent the typical cracking that is typically seen on leather interiors as they age.
Regardless of whether you plan on keeping your truck forever or selling it in a few years, there are numerous benefits to keeping it meticulously maintained and detailed. Besides increased resale value and extending the lifespan of the truck, there is a great sense of pride pulling up in a vehicle that even if it is a few years old, still looks like new.