Do you need to do special car maintenance as a Florida resident? The short answer is “yes.”
South Florida’s humidity can be a doozy on cars that aren’t properly and regularly maintained. Salty ocean air can tear away car paint, corrode brake calipers, rust unprotected sheet metal, and damage rubber hoses and belts. Winter is especially bad on cars thanks to the increase in the morning dew, which can mix with salt to accelerate corrosion. Here are 20 important auto maintenance tasks every Florida car owner should perform before Old Man Winter comes.
The importance of changing your oil – particularly in the winter – can’t be overstated. The general recommendation is to get an oil change every 3,000 miles or 3 months. However, we advise drivers to refer to their vehicle’s manual for recommended oil-change intervals. Some Honda models, for example, may only need an oil change every 5,000 or 7,500 miles, depending on the vehicle and oil type and quality.
Because of the South Florida humidity, condensation is more likely to shorten the life of an oil filter. That white Miami Beach sand can also clog the filters. As a precaution, you should replace your oil filter when changing your oil. (And make it a habit.)
Inspect your air filter for contaminants at each oil change, too. Replacement air filters aren’t as necessary as oil filters, but they should be changed at least once per year or when they display signs of deterioration, which can include noticeable holes and tears, oil accumulation, or water stains (caused by condensation). Air filter replacements are cheap, so there’s no reason not to install a new one each winter.
Condensation is the main contributor to damaged fuel pumps in Florida. When water combines with fuel in the gas tank, it can hamper the effectiveness of that fuel pump and reduce your car’s overall performance. If you haven’t changed your fuel filter in the last 3 years, now’s the time to ask your South Florida service center to install a new one.
Wash & Wax
The fun begins! As you go through your list of car maintenance tasks, getting a car wash and wax should be near the top. A potent coat or two of fine car wax will prevent oxidation and rust from forming, and a protectant under your car will do the same…well, under your car.
We recommend at least checking your transmission fluid each winter. If the level is low, you’ll want to top it off or replace. Automatic-transmission fluid should be changed every 3 years, while manual-transmission fluid can last a bit longer—3 or more years. Ask your South Florida mechanic for advice if you have concerns or questions about changing your transmission fluid.
It’s imperative that you refill your windshield wiper tank with actual windshield wiper fluid. Water may contain impurities that could potentially clog wiper lines. And then there’s the possibility, although unlikely, of water freezing if South Florida temperatures somehow drop below 32 degrees.
Although new cars, including Honda vehicles, are less prone to friction-causing damage, older cars aren’t. Without proper lubrication, essential components and parts under the car can break down. Brakes, axles, calipers, nuts, bolts, and steering and suspension systems should be inspected and lubricated as needed. Ask your South Florida auto service center for recommendations.
Each winter, you should check your coolant or antifreeze and re-fill the reservoir as recommended in your vehicle’s manual. Most newer vehicles only need coolant replaced every 2 or 3 years, but that’s also dependent on usage and the environment. Be sure to use the proper type of coolant; not all coolants are interchangeable, so it’s essential to review your manual (again).
Power Steering Fluid
Stiff or loose steering is a common sign that you’ve depleted the fluid in your vehicle’s power steering reservoir. Add more and inspect your lines and hoses for signs of leakage. Power steering fluid changes are usually only required every few years, but a leak could cause you to change it more frequently. At that point, it’s best to visit your auto repair center.
Hoses & Belts
Broken belts and hoses can be quite dangerous. Accessory belts, serpentine belts, V belts, and coolant hoses can all be damaged without your knowledge, and they always seem to break at the worst time, like when you’re driving down the highway. During your oil change, be sure to inspect those parts for leaks, cracks, holes, rust, slippage, and deterioration. Bad hoses and belts can further damage your fuel and water pumps, engine, pulleys, and any number of car parts.
New cars usually have high-quality belts and hoses in place, meaning you won’t typically require replacements until your 75,000-mile tune-up—or even your 100,000-mile maintenance.
An O2 sensor, or oxygen sensor, monitors your exhaust to determine how efficiently your vehicle is using fuel. O2 sensor warning lights are commonly installed in newer vehicles. If your oxygen sensor has gone bad or finds a problem with your fuel consumption, you’ll be alerted.
Advancements in technology make it possible for vehicles to drive over 100,000 miles before spark plugs go bad. At that point, spark plugs may cause start-up problems and need to be replaced. Luckily, spark plugs are cheap and easy to install, even for novices.
Brake Rotors & Pads
Rusted brakes can be a major concern for South Florida drivers. Because of the salty air and humidity, brake pads and rotors may need to be replaced more frequently than advertised (anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 miles). If you hear squeals and grinding sounds when approaching stops, it’s time to get a brake inspection in Florida. Both brake pads and rotors are fairly affordable and can be installed by a professional mechanic in no time.
Steering & Suspension
Have your mechanic perform a thorough inspection of all steering and suspension components and parts. Check those struts, shocks, ball joints, and tie-rods. Replace any damaged hardware or loose parts promptly.
Again, due to Florida’s climate, corrosion can be a problem—especially for batteries. Most car batteries can last for up to 5 years, but heavy use and improper maintenance will shorten that lifespan significantly. Clean your battery terminals each winter, and replace any battery that shows signs of bulging or leaking or losing charge. Batteries can usually be bought for less than $200 from your South Florida auto parts dealer.
The best way to prevent irregular tire wear is to get tire rotations with each oil change. It’s the industry standard for a reason.
Because of overnight changes in temperature during the winter, tire pressure can fluctuate regularly in Florida. You should make it a habit to monitor your tire’s PSI once the season changes. Fill any tire up to the recommended PSI – find that in your vehicle’s door jamb – to improve fuel efficiency, prolong their life, and reduce the risk of tire alignment issues.
If your tires have seen better days, we advise you to buy a new set of four. Why four? Tires should have the same tread as each other to prevent uneven wear, which can be dangerous in wet or icy conditions.
Seasonal inspections by a professional will help catch any emerging issues before they become big problems. At the bare minimum, have your service mechanic check your tires, brakes, suspension, and engine every winter.
Follow Your Recommended Maintenance Schedule
We can’t emphasize it enough: Check and follow your vehicle’s recommended maintenance intervals! Every maintenance task will be laid out for you. If you need assistance, find an honest South Florida service center to keep you on the straight and narrow. A good auto service department will track your service dates and alert you when it’s time to make a visit to the repair shop.
For that type of trusted auto service in Florida, reach out to one of our South Florida Honda repair centers! Our technicians are trained and certified to perform any type of auto maintenance, not just on Honda models. Schedule an auto maintenance appointment online.