How to prep your car for Summer and get road-trip ready!

Spring-time vehicle maintenance includes simple tips that are easy to forget as we get excited for the new season to come. 

But worry not!  Rock Honda’s, long-time Service and Parts Director, Ruben Serna joins the iDriveSoCal Podcast with the rundown of maintenance items to check off your list in preparation for the summer ahead!

***Transcript***

Recorded @ Rock Honda, Fontana, CA

Spring Vehicle Maintenance

Ruben Serna: And there’s a lot of things that you should be doing to make sure your car is in tip-top shape. Your car depends on you. You depend on your car, and as long as you take care of it, it’s going to take care of you.

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States–Southern California. I’m Tom Smith, and joining me today is Ruben Serna, the Parts and Service Director from Rock Honda. Rock Honda’s out in the Los Angeles suburb of Fontana and a partner of our program. So, Ruben, thank you for joining us. Thank you for being a partner and today’s topic is spring maintenance.

“You depend on your car, and as long as you take care of it, it’s going to take care of you.”

Ruben Serna: Well, thank you, Tom, for having me. I’m excited to be here. So happy to share any ideas or any knowledge or experience I’ve gotten over the last 22 years. So excited about it.

Tom Smith: We’re in Southern California and, as podcast listeners know, I grew up in the Chicagoland area. So the elements that my car, back then when I was in Chicago, had gone through by this time of year, it’s quite a big difference. But, nevertheless, there are still elements in Southern California and there is still a checklist, so to speak, of things that you should take care of you know just to make sure everything’s humming along, right?

Ruben Serna: In Southern California, we are exposed to a lot of different environments where you know wind, Santa Ana winds come out here, really hot weather kind of an extreme environment.

Southern Califonia Elements

We’re also close to the snow, close to the beach, so exposed to a lot of different environments out here. And there’s a lot of things that you should be doing to make sure your car is in tip-top shape. And we like to help. We’re the helpful Honda guy, so let’s do it.

Tom Smith: The first thing on our list here is clean the exterior, clean the interior. For me, personally, the exterior is kind of like you know it’s a good time to throw a coat of wax on it, right?

“…we are exposed to a lot of different environments where you know wind, Santa Ana winds come out here, really hot weather kind of an extreme environment.”

Ruben Serna: I mean that’s you know the idea of you know trying to look good rolling through my neighborhood. It’s always nice to come in to get in your car that previously was dirty and smells nice, feels nice, looks nice. Just makes it feel like your car runs a lot better.

Tom Smith: After I have gone a long time my car wasn’t clean, and then I get a nice clean to it, I honestly feel like, “You know what? I think it’s running better.”.

Ruben Serna: Feel good. look good.

Tom Smith: Is a cleaning of the underbody a good idea to do it in the spring?

Ruben Serna: It’s kind of like snake oil thing, you know? It doesn’t exist. Out here in Southern California, there’s nothing. We don’t see a whole lot of that. We try to provide a service that people need, and that’s not anything that we’ve experienced that people need. So no, I think we’re okay in this area, so we’ve never done it here.

I can’t imagine anybody in Southern California would do that unless the car comes from Midwest or back East, and it’s already had some type of effect, some corrosion already exposed to that salt and stuff.

Rubber Hits the Road

So, yeah, I don’t see it happening very much out here.

Tom Smith: And the other items to cover in a spring kind of maintenance checklist, what do we have?

Ruben Serna: You obviously want the one part of the car that touches the road is your tires. You know, I can’t express how important tires are, and they’re actually the most neglected. Some people don’t even know that they’re running on slicks.

Tom Smith: Literally, where the rubber hits the road.

Ruben Serna: That’s what keeps you on the road and keeps you safe. So you know, at higher speeds and you’ve got a tire that needs to be replaced, it’s very dangerous. So we try to make sure that when cars come in, we inspect the tires, inspect the tire pressure, rotate them when you need to pretty much every time you come in every 5000 miles, 7500 miles depending on when your maintenance might have come on. We try to rotate them, and then we also do a free alignment check on the drive to make sure those tires are meeting the road…

“…I can’t express how important tires are, and they’re actually the most neglected. Some people don’t even know that they’re running on slicks.”

Tom Smith: The right way and then not wearing [crosstalk] most are always.

Ruben Serna: …going to touch the road because the alignment is fine.

Tom Smith: That’s a huge safety thing. I’m a new dad. I think since our last podcast, which was winterizing your vehicle or winter maintenance tips… Safety is just like paramount for me now, and I’m sure for lots of other people. It’s kind of funny because, back before I was a dad, safety was going, “Well, you know, hey.”.

Ruben Serna: More people to worry about.

Tom Smith: Yeah absolutely. But yeah, so tires very, very big thing when it comes to not only performance but safety.

Brake for Maintenance 

Ruben Serna: We do the oil change, we will rotate tires. Obviously, we’re going to the check tires, the tire pressure, but we’re also going to check the brakes. Check your brakes. You should be checking them every time you come in for an oil change.

You know, there’s nothing more important, besides tires, is your brakes. Your car needs to stop, especially when you need it the most, during the most important, urgent time that you’ve got an emergency stopping distance, you want to make sure that your brake pads are going to do exactly what they were designed to do and stop the car.

“…you want to make sure that your brake pads are going to do exactly what they were designed to do and stop the car.”

So that’s very important, but that’s not just a spring thing, you know> It’s an all around, all the time, 100%, 24/7. You want to make sure your car is able to stop when you need it the most.

Tom Smith: We were talking about this a little bit off mic with regard to brakes and there’s really no maintenance minders. The lights aren’t going to pop on, at least, currently, in the technology that we have, when you need brakes.

And I personally have been leasing cars for so long that I haven’t put a pair of brakes on. I haven’t replaced brakes in a car in years. What indicators? Do they still have the little mechanisms that make them squeak?

Ruben Serna: Well, you know there is a shim kit.

Tom Smith: Shim kit?

Ruben Serna: Shim kit that the pad sits on. It’s basically just a bracket. And the bracket is supposed to extend through the pad on the outer edges and when the PAD reaches a certain point, that metal part of the shim kit is supposed to touch the rotor, and that’s going to make the squeaking sound.

Monitor Your Car’s Maintenance Needs

Tom Smith: And you say “supposed to,” so we’re talking about in theory. It’s mechanical, right?

Ruben Serna: The reason why I say it’s supposed to is that you never want to get to that point because it will damage the rotor.

Tom Smith: And then you got a bigger brake job? Then you need pads and rotors, or you need the rotor spawn and blah blah blah blah blah and then possibly calipers if you go way too long.

“…if you’re coming in regularly, and I’m going to tell you, ‘Hey, you can make it to your next oil change.'”

Ruben Serna: When a brake pad is new, the measurement is 10 millimeters. When it needs be replaced, it’s 2 millimeters. So hey, look, if you’re coming in regularly, and I’m going to tell you, “Hey, you can make it to your next oil change.

You’re at four millimeters. Your next oil change, you’re probably going to the brakes.” That way it gives you an idea, hey, look, I should save my money or not spend the money that I should have spent on my car to make sure it’s safe to drive. And that’s our main goal.

Tom Smith: And you guys here at Rock Honda are very good at that, as you just pointed out, the snake oil of an underbody cleaning is, like, nah. You don’t need that. And you can’t say that about, you know, all service shops that you go to.

Ruben Serna: There’s a lot of good service shops out there.

Tom Smith: Without a doubt. Without a doubt. But we’ve all been sold something that we didn’t need.

Ruben Serna: And we’re a firm believer. We don’t compromise our integrity. We feel that if we can gain your trust every single time, and you got to prove it every single time, not just once or twice.

Vehicle Cosmetic Matters – Matter

Ruben Serna: I think that’s more of a preference thing. If I see a scratch that shouldn’t be there, it just kind of gives me more anxiety. This kind of a kind of a nice thing to know. But you know if you’ve got a scratch on your car, all you got to do is take your fingernail and drag it across the scratch. If you can feel it, it’s through the paint.

If you can’t feel it, bring it in. We can wax and polish it off. Now if it’s a little chip on the hood because you get road rash, little chips, those are perfect for a touch-up.

Tom Smith: We used to call them chat.

“…if you’ve got a scratch on your car, all you got to do is take your fingernail and drag it across the scratch. If you can feel it, it’s through the paint.”

Ruben Serna: Is that they call it?

Tom Smith: I don’t know. That’s what me and my buddies called it growing up, chat. I got a little chat on the hood and the windshield. You know, chat.

Ruben Serna: It must be a Midwest thing.

Tom Smith: You’re driving behind the gravel truck you know whatever and you just hear this stuff kind of bouncing off, and it’s like, aah.

Ruben Serna: Yeah that’s not…that’s what we call road rash.

Tom Smith: Okay. Road rash, chat, use those interchangeably.

Ruben Serna: Toe-may-toe, to-mah-to, right? So you know the idea is that you want to make sure that you know those are the best kind to touch up, a touch a bottle. Every car has a paint code and you can order them. It’s pretty awesome because you can dab it and it looks pretty darn good.

Tom Smith: And at the end of the day, again, this is a preference thing. It’s a cosmetic thing.

Don’t Overheat 

Ruben Serna: The next thing is radiator. You know the radiator, the coolant whenever the maintenance reminder comes on, it will tell you when it needs to be done. So those, typically…and some manufacturers say that coolant fluid is lifetime depending what kind of car you drive.

Tom Smith: If a car doesn’t tell you to, do you have a rule of thumb to go with?

Ruben Serna: Well you know so manufacturers say over 60,000 miles, some every 90,000. Honda typically will come on at 100,000 miles. So that’s pretty much rule of thumb. If you haven’t changed your coolant in 100,000 miles, probably a good idea.

“So that’s pretty much rule of thumb. If you haven’t changed your coolant in 100,000 miles, probably a good idea.”

Tom Smith: So if you’re leasing a car, you probably just check radiator fluid off your I-don’t-care-about-it list.

Ruben Serna: What else? What else we got? Hoses and belts, you know, certain cars depending on if it’s been more than six, seven years, you want to replace all the hoses and belts, especially you know radiator hoses and all those small little hoses that go in. We have a what we call the re-hose service that we do on cars at about 150,000 miles, six, seven, eight years old just to make sure. It’s preventative maintenance. The last thing to do is be caught on the side of the freeway, especially during the hot summer because a $12 hose popped off. What are you gonna do?

Tom Smith: $12 hose popped off, you’re sweating buckets, and…

Ruben Serna: And you’re 50 miles away from home on the way to Vegas.

Tom Smith: Good time. Oh, on the way to Vegas? Well, it would be worse be coming home hung over from Vegas. I don’t know. Would that be worse coming back or worse going because going you’d be like, “Ah! We’re almost there.”

Check Hoses & Belts for Cracks

And then your buddies are killing you.

Ruben Serna: You’re like I can’t…

Tom Smith: How did… How could you possibly? We were…

Ruben Serna: So those hoses and belts, we recommend them when we see them kind of just starting to fray or crack. And you know it’s hard to put a time frame on belts. I’ve seen them go out as soon as 45,000 miles. I’ve seen them last 100,000 miles and those are dry belts, the power steering belt, the alternator belt.

“…those hoses and belts, we recommend them when we see them kind of just starting to fray or crack.”

It’s not a costly service, so it’s pretty inexpensive. And then your battery, your battery should get serviced every time you come in. We always…

Tom Smith: What does servicing a battery mean?

Ruben Serna: You know replacing, kind of taking the terminals off, spraying the non-corrosion on the terminals, and then putting an ice pad in there to make sure it’s going to absorb the moisture. And then you test your battery every time you come in. We test the battery. That’s part of our commitment to our guests here at Rock Honda.

You know sometimes it’s hard to… electrical components are difficult to diagnose, especially… I could test a battery today and tomorrow you call me and say, “Hey, man, my car doesn’t start. I just brought my car in for service.” And so, of course, I’ve got to check to make sure we tested.

You know we test the battery. It’s kind of like a light switch, right? You know, how much has this happened to you when you walk into your room and you turn on the light because you got something and you come back and go, “Oh I forgot something else,” and you turn the light switch back on and you go, “Didn’t it just work?” It worked 30 seconds ago.

Vehicle Batteries

It was that time. So batteries operate in the same way.

Tom Smith: Yeah, but there’s good warranties on batteries these days, too, right?

“…test your battery every time you come in. We test the battery. That’s part of our commitment to our guests here at Rock Honda.”

Ruben Serna: A hundred-month warranties.

Tom Smith: Hundred months.

Ruben Serna: Hundred months.

Tom Smith: Hundred-month warranties.

Ruben Serna: That’s on a replacement battery, not an original battery. An original battery is 3 or 36.

Tom Smith: And that brings us to the end of our list, right?

Ruben Serna: Yeah.

Tom Smith: So a lot of these things are when you’re really deep into the age of the vehicle, and that’s going to differentiate between the car that you own or the car that you lease.

I keep on putting it into those terms because I’ve become a lessor, I love leasing because everything is under warranty, so I don’t have to worry about that. I’m a freak about my cars if I don’t lease it.

So if I’m leasing it and I see a shopping cart got close to it and maybe, oh my gosh, bumped it, and gave it a little scratch, meh, I only got how many more months on this lease? That’s just become my thing. And being a new dad, the safety factor, right?

The most technologically advanced safety features are going to be in the new cars, and if I’m leasing, I’m always in a new car. So that’s my theory.

Ruben Serna: I mean it’s nice to have… take a car for two-three years and then say, “Okay, I’m done with this. Here are the keys.”

And a lease return, I mean most manufacturers are the same way, they’re not going to ding for you know little dents and scratches. That’s a common question. People always ask, “Hey so what do I need to do?”

Listen to Your Car

Well, obviously, you need to maintain the vehicle. But most manufacturers and dealerships will say, “Look as long as the tires are fine and long as a bumper is not falling off, the windshield not cracked, nothing’s broken exterior wise,” you’re not going to get charged for it.

Tom Smith: You’ve got a little cushion in there for stuff.

Ruben Serna: It’s a nice program.

“…what we call the Maintenance Minders, and the car’s going to tell us exactly what oil life you have remaining.”

Tom Smith: For when that chad hits the front of the car.

Ruben Serna: So you got chatted. sounds good.

Tom Smith: What did you call it? Road rash. chat and road rash.

Ruben Serna: Maybe we can have the listeners say which one would you rather…

Tom Smith: Yeah. We’ll do a Survey Monkey…

Ruben Serna: Do you chatted? Are you chatted or are you…

Tom Smith: I’m not so sure about how you’re saying that. Is that even a word? We made it a word. We’re going to put in the Urban Dictionary. Okay. So I think that wraps up our spring maintenance, right?

Ruben Serna: Yes.

Tom Smith: All right, well, fantastic. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Ruben Serna: Just, you know, listen to your car. You’ve got…your car depends on you. You depend on your car, and as long as you take care of it, it’s going to take care of you. You know, Hondas are really nice.

They got what we call the Maintenance Minders, and the car’s going to tell us exactly what oil life you have remaining. And most manufacturers are doing that nowadays. They’re putting an oil life. Brand new car, it’s 100% oil life and then when it gets down to about 15%, that’s when you got to take it in.

Rock Honda Service

So you know that’s it. It takes the guessing game out of it, and that’s what we like to adhere by. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Tom Smith: Thank you, again, for joining me for another iDriveSoCal podcast. That was Ruben Serna, the Service Director here at Rock Honda in the Los Angeles suburb of Fontana, California. Rock is a partner of ours. Ruben is a friend. David Latif is a friend. Rock is a friend.

We love you guys and thanks for taking care of our people, and thanks for being a partner of the show. And until next time, I’m Tom Smith. This is iDriveSoCal. Thanks for listening.