1. Air filter – If you haven’t changed your air filter since last year (or can’t remember when you changed it at all), it might be time. It’s an easy and cheap fix, and it pays off in your vehicle’s performance and fuel economy.
2. Cabin filter – Older vehicles often don’t have a cabin filter, but it can make a lot of difference in how pleasant your vehicle is to drive. Stale, smelly air? Change it!
3. Wipers — Get a good look at them. Are they showing signs of age like cracks, dry rot, chips or gouges? Are they doing an effective job of clearing water from your windshield, with no streaks or gaps? No? Then go ahead and have them changed — it’s another easy and cheap fix that makes a big difference in safety.
4. Ignition – If you have a car built with a distributor and spark plug wires, have the plug wires checked for cracks, damage and arcing. If not, have each coil pack checked for a snug, positive fit on the spark plug itself.
5. Hoses – We’re not just talking about the main hoses for the radiator and transmission coolant lines here, although those are very important. Your vehicle relies on dozens of vacuum lines to control and regulate certain functions, some no bigger than a piece of spaghetti. A dry-rotted, disconnected, leaky or degraded vacuum line can cause problems in drivability and performance that can bedevil your vehicle. When having your radiator/transmission hoses and belts checked for condition, snug connections and tension, have a technician give the vacuum lines a once-over as well.
6. Tires – This one, of course, is a biggie. Get a good look at your tires for irregularities in the tread…run your hand along the tread itself and feel for uneven “feathered’ patterns which could indicate front-end problems. Look for age/weather cracks, bulges or other flaws in the sidewall that could mean imminent tire failure. Check the treads for uneven wear at the inside or outside edges, a sure tipoff of front-end alignment that’s out of spec. Have your tires rotated (you should be doing rotations regularly anyway) and check tread depth. States require a minimum depth of 2/32” for safety…the easiest way to gauge this is to stick a penny into the tread with Lincoln’s head down. If the top of the tread touches Abe’s head, you’re in good shape (some now recommend doing this with a nickel or quarter instead).
7. Battery – Cold-weather cranking is hard on a battery and charging system, and batteries can be prone to corrosion during the winter as well. Have a tech test your battery and charging system, and have him also get a good look at the terminals, cables and clamps for signs of corrosion (fluffy greenish-white deposits) which can affect charging and starting performance.
8. Radiator flush – It’s easy to forget about your cooling system, but it should have a pressure test, flush and refill with fresh coolant yearly. Even in the cleanest radiator and cooling systems, coolant can pick up rust and corrosion which can cause it to break down and lose its effectiveness.
9. Headlights – Are they all working? What kind of shape are the clear headlight covers in? If they’re cloudy, a light buffing can help the effectiveness of your headlights tremendously.