Ever wonder what areas of concern you should be addressing on your Mustang before the nice weather hits and fun springtime driving becomes the norm? We’ve put together a quick checklist of areas you will want to give some love before racking up the miles on your beloved Mustang.
The first thing you want to do is check the fluid levels on less-noticed systems. Brake fluid should be checked and topped off by filling up to the maximum line. Find your owner’s manual and only use the DOT fluid specified for your particular Mustang. If your fluid level is unusually low, you will want to check for signs of leakage around the master cylinder reservoir.
Next, take a look at your radiator reservoir. If you are low on coolant, you are going to want to top it off. Now, depending on where you live and the climate you experience, you can go with the recommended blend of anti-freeze/distilled water or, if you live in a predominantly warm climate and you are tight on cash at the time, you can use just distilled water. You DO NOT want to use tap or faucet water in your cooling system. The minerals and additives in water that has not been distilled can encourage further deterioration of the cooling system and cause costly damage.
Relating back to using just water instead of a coolant/distilled mix–If you live anywhere that dips below freezing or are looking for anything other than a quick solution, you do not want to follow this method. The coolant is meant to keep your system from freezing. If you do not use the recommended blend, you risk the system freezing temperatures and could crack hoses or even split your engine block. Also, water reaches its boiling point much sooner than does coolant and therefore can hold and transfer more heat out of the engine and through the cooling processes. This, combined with the added viscosity of anti-freeze, are why you want to make sure you have the proper mixture and avoid freezing your system in cold weather and overheating in the summer months.
After checking both the brake fluid and your radiator reservoir, take a look at your power steering fluid. There should be little or no movement in power steering fluid levels and if you see a significant drop from when you last checked, you might want to search for leaks. The same goes for your transmission fluid. Make sure you top it off as you would your engine oil–leveled out above the minimum marker. Now would also be a good time to check your maintenance schedule and see if you are due for a fluid flush. Those Mustang owners with automatic transmissions will also want to replace their transmission filters when having this done.
Cooling System: There are many components on later model Mustangs that get a ton of use and, especially with older Stangs, need to be replaced over time. Your cooling system is a common culprit. You want to check all hoses and fluid lines for any leaks, cracks, or generally worn-out parts and replace them. An old-school way of knowing if you should replace your main coolant hoses is simply to give them a squeeze. If they feel firm they probably have a lot of life in them. However, the softer and easier they are to squeeze, the more you may want to consider picking up a replacement set. While you’re focusing your attention on the cooling system, check your thermostat and make sure it’s opening and closing easily.
Belts, Battery and Air Filter: These components do wear over time and need to be checked and even replaced periodically. Your serpentine belt can become dried out, ripped and cracked. If you notice any of these issues, it’s better to stay on the safe side and throw a new belt on. Battery terminals should be checked for corrosion/rust and cleaned every year. If the cables themselves have any corrosion, it’s a good idea to clean and tighten them as well. Be sure to replace wires if you notice any rips or tears as they could become a safety hazard. Next, check your air filter for a buildup of dirt and debris. If you find that it’s looking pretty dirty and probably should be replaced, now might be a good time to throw a high flowing aftermarket filter on instead. The initial cost is a little more than you would pay for a stock paper filter, but a premium filter will last you forever and can be cleaned fairly easily. You also may see a 1-3 MPG boost, in addition to some added horsepower and torque. It’s recommended you change your fuel filter every 20-30k miles as well. A good rule of thumb is to replace it when you first buy a used car, then get yourself on a set schedule.
Each year, depending on how often you drive your Mustang, you’ll want to take the spark plugs out and inspect them. If there is any discoloration, you may have to address a lean or rich air/fuel mixture. Stock plugs on a relatively stock car are said to last 100k miles, but it isn’t a bad idea to replace them sooner if you drive your car hard or feel a loss in power, especially after taking a long trip. When reinstalling your plugs, do not over torque them as this can lead to a plug breaking off in the cylinder head and you’ll only want to change them on a completely cool motor. Doing so on a warm or hot motor risks damage to the cylinder head threads. As for using anti-seize on your plugs, NGK recommends using this logic: