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lou's garage

Time and technology march on. Contemporary vehicles use computer-controlled distributor-less ignition systems, making caps and rotors a thing of the past. Even the modern spark plug usually lasts for more than 100,000 kilometres.

Long, harsh Canadian winters still take a toll on our vehicles. The standard spring tune-up may have gone the way of dial-up Internet but spring maintenance is crucial to vehicle safety and longevity.

Here's a checklist of items the average Joe/Joanne can tackle at home and those that should be serviced at the shop:

Do it yourself

Wipers: Admit it. You've used the combination of wipers and fluid to clear snow and ice off your windshield when it was a job for the ice scraper. No judgment, we've all done it, but it does lead to premature wiper wear. Treat your car and yourself to a new set of quality wipers and bring on those April showers.

Lighting: Oh-so-important and yet oh-so-neglected. Bulbs are usually fairly easy to replace and they make your journeys safer.

Noises: When you roll down your windows to enjoy the long-awaited warm weather, you might be surprised to hear squeaks and rattles coming from your vehicle that weren't there last fall.

Tech Tip: When out on a road test, most technicians have a favourite warehouse parking lot and drive alongside the building with the windows down. The wall will reflect the sound, making it easier to pinpoint the source of the noise. While you may not be able to tackle the repair, a detailed description will be helpful to your service provider.

Vermin: You weren't the only one looking for a warm place to vacation last winter. Rodents are attracted to the warmth of recently parked vehicles and may set up house under shielding and air-filter housings. These unwelcome guests will often chew through wiring harnesses, causing electrical issues. Pop the hood and peer into the more remote areas with a flashlight to look for signs of infestation.

More on nature: Regularly park near a large tree? You can pretty much guarantee that some fall leaves have made their way into the blower motor housing, leading to fluttering noises when the fan is on. Decaying leaves will also cause unpleasant odours to circulate through the vehicle. Cabin filter replacement procedures can be simple. Look up a good YouTube tutorial to determine if you're up for this maintenance item.

Shop service

Suspension and alignment: You can only dodge so many potholes. Checking and replacing suspension components is better left to the pros. Don't forget about a wheel alignment, especially after investing in a front-end repair or a new set of tires.

Fluids: Most vehicle owner's manuals do not accurately specify intervals for fluids, making them easy to overlook. Fluids break down over time and are prone to contamination, especially brake fluid as it is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture. The moisture eventually leads to internal rust and corrosion that damage brake components such as calipers and wheel cylinders.

Brakes: Nothing is worse than not having confidence in your vehicle's braking system. Extreme winter weather and road salt wash away the lubricants needed to keep your brakes performing at peak efficiency. Winter-weary braking systems suffer from heavy corrosion build-up and need a full inspection with service or replacement.

Tires: When switching to all-season tires, have them checked for irregular wear patterns, sidewall stress cracks and tire depth. It's a good idea to have the tires balanced at least every other season to ensure the smoothest possible ride. Don't forget to have the condition of the spare checked as well.

Money-saving tip: Spring is an ideal time to take advantage of manufacturer rebates on a new set of tires.

Lou and Debbie Trottier are the owner-operators of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing "Lou's Garage" in the subject area.

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