Your car may look great in summer. But after months of driving in Ontario’s notorious winter conditions—rain, salt, slush, and snow—your car’s cleanliness and wellbeing is usually an entirely different story.

As the snow thins out, give your car the spring maintenance it needs to take on the warmer months ahead.

Here’s a spring car maintenance checklist for Ontario drivers:

  1. Change out your winter tires
  2. Rotate your tires
  3. Check tire alignment
  4. Deep clean your car’s exterior
  5. Top-up your fluids
  6. Replace worn-out wipers
  7. Check the lights
  8. Test the battery
  9. Inspect belts and brakes

Even electric cars need spring maintenance—and we’ve included spring car maintenance tips for EV drivers below, too. So whether you’re driving a gas-powered vehicle, a hybrid, or an EV, use this checklist to get your car back into top shape after months of driving in Ontario’s notorious winter conditions.

1. Change out your winter tires

Winter tires are essential on snow and ice. But as winter fades, you’ll need to change to all-season or summer tires. Driving on naked asphalt with your winter tires will reduce your gas mileage. And winter tires have flexible tread rubber, which will wear out quickly if used during the summer months. 

Summer and all-season tires are generally more suited to snow-free roads, ensuring better handling. So, book a session to switch to summer tires if you can’t do the job by yourself.

After you replace your winter tires, store them carefully in a cool, dry corner of your home until the next winter. Wash off excess salt before storage to prevent corrosion.

When should I change to summer tires in Ontario?

You should generally change to summer tires in Ontario once the weather climbs above 7°C and remains there. The weather heats up to this level between late February and early March. 

2. Rotate your tires

When installing your summer/all-season tires, it’s a good idea to rotate them. Move your car's front tires to the back and the back ones to the front.

Tire rotation is important because a car’s weight isn’t distributed evenly across the four tires. Therefore, the tread wear on each will be affected differently. Your front tires carry more weight because they control steering, and they hold a lot of weight as a car shifts forward.

Rotating your tires just before the summer months arrive can extend the lifespan of your tires and improve gas mileage.

3. Check tire alignment

If your tires are misaligned, you’ll feel your steering wheel pulling to one side when driving at highway speeds. Unfortunately, the potholes and curbs you couldn’t avoid in wintery conditions contribute to wear and tear on your suspension, handling, and tire alignment.

So, as the ice and snow clear out, checking your alignment should be high on your list. Book a session with a qualified mechanic, tire shop, or dealership for an alignment check. A green result shows your tire is still in spec, while yellow or red signifies the need for alignment.

4. Deep clean your car’s exterior

When you drive a lot during winter, chances are high that your car’s exterior is heavily coated in road salt. Failure to wash off the salt in spring can lead to rusting and other types of body damage to your car’s undercarriage.

To deep clean your car’s exterior in spring, go to a carwash with a powerful spraying machine that can target underneath your vehicle with enough force for salt removal. Getting a regular wash will keep your car’s paint job in excellent condition.

Of course, you’re welcome to deep clean your car’s interior while you’re at it. But after months of driving through slush, salt, and snow, what’s most important is removing months of built-up salt.

5. Check and top up fluids

When it comes to refilling and changing car fluids, your car owner’s manual should be your guide during this step on the spring car maintenance checklist.

The first item on this list: check and change your oil if required. Common advice suggests it’s a good idea to change your oil every 5,000 km or three months (whichever comes first). That said, newer vehicles can typically drive at least 8,000 to 16,000 km on the same oil. Every car is different, so refer to your car’s handbook for specific instructions.

After checking (and possibly changing) the oil, the next step is to check the transmission fluid—a step that most people overlook. Skipping this step can prove costly in the long run, because vehicle transmission damage is one of the more serious repairs for car owners to deal with.

As you're performing spring car maintenance in Ontario, your best bet is to make sure that all of the fluids in your car (including the brake fluid, windshield wiper blades, and coolant) are topped up, just to be sure that everything is in good working order.

6. Replace worn-out wipers

Your windshield wipers spent all winter pushing off the snow, ice, and dirty slush. As such, the blades are likely worn out. Check them for bends, cracks, and rips, and swap out damaged blades for new ones. You want your wipers in good shape as the spring and summer rainfall arrives.

If you installed winter windshield wipers, now is also a good time to remove them. Just like your winter tires, the winter wipers work best when temperatures drop to freezing and below. They won’t work quite as well as the weather heats up because they’re not well equipped to wipe out rain and dust.

7. Check the lights

Extremely low visibility in winter weather makes it hard to know if your lights are in good working condition. And if you’re like most drivers, you probably didn’t do a lot of night driving during winter.

As the sun starts to set later in the day (hooray!) during spring, do a quick check to make sure that all your exterior lights are working perfectly. Give your headlights a polish if they look hazy and faded. Have a friend walk around your vehicle while you test your brake lights, backup lights, turn signals, fog lamps, license plate lights, rear fog lights, and even your high beams and low beams. Fully functioning car lights help to keep you and other drivers safe on the roads.

8. Test the battery

Car batteries take a beating as the temperature drops to 20-30 °C in winter and gets warmer again in spring. Annual temperature changes can wear out a battery, and they’re part of the reason why most batteries have a 3-5 year lifespan.

If your car battery is getting on in its years, test it out while you’re performing spring car maintenance. Load testing will tell you if the battery has come through the winter unscathed or if you need to change it.

9. Inspect belts and brakes

Your belts and brakes are heavily affected by the winter weather as you drive through the slush, salt, and sand. You’re supposed to check them at least every 40,000 km, but it’s a good idea to check them as you perform spring car maintenance every year.

Revving your way out of deep snow and slamming the brakes repeatedly to stay on the road can wear out these parts faster than you’d expect. The rate of deterioration will vary for most vehicles, so periodic checks are strongly advised.

Do electric vehicles need spring maintenance?

Electric vehicles need spring maintenance. While EVs don’t have the transmission or the engines of standard combustion engine vehicles, they all still share a lot in common with their gas-powered and hybrid counterparts.

If you own an electric vehicle, you should still perform the following spring car maintenance tasks:

  • Change out winter tires
  • Check battery
  • Check and change windscreen wipers
  • Check lights
  • Check brakes

Keep in mind, EV batteries are hit as hard as standard car batteries during winter—if not harder. Make sure to test yours in the spring to ensure it’s still powerful enough to deliver the advertised mileage.

Checking other elements like your tires, brakes, and lights is important for your safety as well. EV car tires go through the same experience as standard car tires during Ontario’s winter months.

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