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Spring Cleaning For Your Car

Spring cleaning around the house can also mean the garage, as in "a great time to check on your car." While some people prefer to bring their car in for service whenever notified by the dealer, many would rather save some money and do the work themselves.

ASE-certified master automotive technician Steve Ford, also known to DIY Network viewers as "The Car Guy" (www.thecarguy.com), came to CBS's Saturday Early Show to demonstrate some basic maintenance most anyone can do, in four areas that should be addressed come spring: tires, wipers, fluids and filters.

Checking Tires For Wear

You should check your tires at least once a month to determine whether you need to (a) buy new tires, (b) have your wheels balanced, (c) have your wheels aligned, or (d) change your driving habits.

While looking at your tires, see if you have nails, stones or other debris embedded in the treads, removing them if you do. Before you remove a nail, make sure that your spare tire is inflated and in usable shape.

Keep a tire gauge in the glove box and, as temperatures fluctuate, check the tire's pressure. Poor pressure can do more than reduce the lifespan of your tire — it can hurt you at the pump, too. To get the best mileage, always have your tires properly inflated. Examining the treads will give you clues about whether they are properly inflated:

  • If both edges of your tire's treads are worn, the tire is most likely under-inflated, so add more air and check for leaks.
  • "If the center of the tire tread area is worn, the tires are probably over-inflated. Check the pressure with a pressure guage and release some air pressure to reach the manufacturer's specs. Refer to your vehicle owner's manual for the correct tire pressure specification for your particular vehicle. Also, always remember to check the tire pressure readings with the tires cold (not driven more than two or three miles)."
  • One-sided wear in your treads usually means poor alignment; that will need a mechanic to correct.

    Replacing The Wiper Blades

    Wiping ice and washer fluid through the past four months has probably put a lot of wear on your wiper blades, so replace them now to get ready for all the steady showers that come with spring. Most blades are really easy to install and snap right into place. Check your owner's manual for the right size blade. Most auto store clerks can access the right size from a product guide.

    Oil Check

    Just because the lube place changes your oil every 3,000 miles doesn't mean it shouldn't be checked with regularity. Finding the dipstick on today's cars is actually pretty simple: When you find it, pull it out, wipe it off, reinsert and remove again. You're looking for a carmel color and a level that meets the manufacturer's suggestion as noted on the dipstick itself.

    If you want to save a few dollars and change the oil yourself, it's really not that hard. Once you locate the car's oil pan, just loosen the screw to let the old oil out. The oil filter is usually nearby (the owner's manual can tell you exactly) and comes off with a few turns, too. If it's too tight, you can find a filter tool at your local auto store. They also have oil pans to collect the used fluid. Replace the oil pan screw and oil filter (hand tighten only) with a new one before filling with fresh oil. The weight and amount of oil you'll need will be in your manual.

    Replacing The Air Cleaner Filter

    Replacing the air cleaner filter twice a year is recommended, since it's responsible for filtering the air entering the engine. [If you live in an area where trees drop a lot of pollen in the spring, you may want to replace the filter in the summer as well.]

    Once you locate the filter area (check the manual), inspect and toss if it's too dirty.

    Fuel Additives

    There are plenty of additives on the market — some boost octane, others promise enhanced performance. Ford likes and recommends using the additives that help keep your engine clean. They are typically labeled as fuel injection cleaners.

    Be sure to catch Steve Ford on the DIY Network.

    • David Morgan

      David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.