10 Things You Need to Check on Your Car as Winter Ends and Spring Begins

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Remember to perform seasonal maintenance for your vehicle as the weather gets warmer. AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File

Winter can be brutal on a car. Diagnosing the effects of the season on your car is relatively easy, even if you have no formal mechanic training.

Performing a series of quick checks each season can ultimately save you money in the long run.

The best place to start is with a thorough spring cleaning, either DIY or via a full detail service. Here's a list of things to check.

Wash your car

Starting off your spring checklist with a deep clean will not just get rid of lingering winter elements, like road salt; it also allows you to see the level of wear and tear your car has sustained.

According to HowMuchIsIt, the average cost of a car wash ranges from $5 to $12 for a basic drive-through service. The average price of a premium wash, which generally includes a tire shine and wax, costs closer to $15 to $30.

Self-serve car washes are also an option, ranging from $1 to $3 to start and $1 to $2 per additional minute.

A full detail service can cost over $100, sometimes more than $200 depending on the level of deep clean desired.

Check and patch paint

No vehicle is immune to scratches and dents, no matter what time of the year. Getting these blemishes fixed can help stave off bigger body problems down the road.

Minor scratches can cost $150 to $300 to repair once labor is included, according to the Consumer Insurance Report.

Minor damage could be fixed using materials you might have around the house. Do-it-yourself website Home Hacks suggests using household items like toothpaste, shoe polish, nail polish or candle wax for quick little fixes.

Check your tire pressure

Temperature swings often result in changing air pressure in tires, which causes uneven wear. Your tire pressure should match the recommended tire pressure found in your vehicle's owner's manual or on a sticker inside the driver's door.

Measure tire pressure after the car has been parked for several hours, and check its owner's manual for the PSI that should register on the gauge. If there's a low reading, top off the problematic tires at a gas station.

Many modern vehicles have automatic tire pressure sensors that show current pressures on the driver's information screen.

You can usually find tire gauges at your local auto parts store for under $10.

Check tire tread

Without sufficient tread, your tires can't grip the road as designed. This could compromise your car's handling in wet weather and your ability to come to a quick stop.

Between salt, potholes, and the winter cold, tires take a beating. To check the depth of your tires' tread, take a penny and insert Lincoln's head into the grooves of the tire treads. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, it's time to replace the tire. Have questions? Be sure to consult a tire professional.

Rotate or switch out your tires

By routinely rotating your rear tires to the front (and front to rear), wear will spread evenly across all four tires. Even wear helps with car traction and level handling to maximize the tread life.

If you have placed winter tires on your vehicle, this is also the time to switch them out in favor of summer or all-season tires.

Check window wipers

Freezing, thawing and scraping can take their toll on windshield wipers. Icy windshields can cause wiper blades to warp, bend and even crack.

If your wipers leave water streaks on your windshield rather than wiping cleanly, it's time to switch them out.

Wipers should be replaced at a semi-annual rate, once in the fall and spring.

On average, a new set should cost anywhere between $8 and $25, depending on quality and size.

Check your car's fluid levels

Windshield washer fluid doubles as a de-icer on frosty winter days. Even if your low fluid level light has not yet illuminated, it's a good moment to remember to top off. If you don't have any fluid on hand, you can generally pick up a gallon for less than $4 at your local auto supply or big box store. The majority of transmission failures can be traced to fluid neglect.

Though transmission fluid doesn't always need to be fully topped off, the seasonal change is an excellent reminder to check the level and fill if needed.

Checking a car's brake fluid level is relatively easy. If the vehicle has a transparent reservoir, you can just look; if the reservoir is metal, remove the cover for a quick peek to see it's at least half full.

If the fluid is not clear and translucent, it may need a flush and change, costing $100 to $118 at a shop (or up to $150 at a dealer). Keep in mind that that low brake fluid could be a sign that new brakes are needed. Make sure to consult a professional to get a proper diagnosis.

A proper amount of coolant is one of the best ways to protect your engine and radiator from wear and tear. Check to ensure the coolant reaches the full line during your spring check. Some coolants come premixed, but you can also refill with a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water.

Check and change oil

Regularly scheduled oil changes help maintain a healthy engine. As motor oil lubricates and cools the engine, it naturally picks up impurities. Depending on the engine, an oil change should come every 3,000 to 7,500 miles. Your owner's manual details the proper interval.

According to Kelley Blue Book, an oil change costs between $65 and $125 for synthetic oil or $35 and $75 for conventional oil on average. Many places take walks-in or appointments. There are also a number of do-it-yourself tutorials on YouTube that can save you roughly $15 on average.

Check battery

Every car with an internal combustion engine includes an electrical system with a starter and an alternator. It takes more effort to turn over a vehicle in winter weather, something that can wear down battery life. The toll that winter takes on the battery can be seen in dimmer-than-usual headlights or a slower window roll down.

While getting your oil changed or tires rotated, ask if the mechanics can also test your battery. The average battery replacement for an SUV is roughly $250 at stores like Walmart or AutoZone.

Check and replace bulbs

The first time many drivers realize they have a light out is when they are being pulled over for it. While inspecting the rest of your vehicle this spring, take time to examine the side mirrors for cracks, and enlist the help of a friend to check headlights, taillights, reverse lights, brake lights, parking lights, fog lights and turn signals.

The cost of replacing the exterior lights in your car varies greatly depending on the make and model of your vehicle. The price for each High-Intensity discharge bulb replacement is $100 or more, while the average cost of replacing an entire headlight assembly can range from $250 to $700.