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No matter what the calendar says, winter still may be affecting your car

No matter what it says on the calendar, winter still may be having an effect on your car.

The grit and grime from demanding driving conditions may still be lingering under your hood.

Now is the time to show your car that you care. Automotive experts recommend a 10-point spring check up to revitalize your car:

1. Change your oil and oil filter — ideally every three months or 3,000 miles.

2. If it's been more than two years or 24,000 miles since you've changed your automatic transmission fluid and filter, change that now, too.

3. If you have a front-wheel-drive vehicle, check the condition of the constant velocity — or CV — boots. If torn or cracked, replacing them now could save you hundreds of dollars in repairs.

4. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and rotate your tires if it's been six months since you last did so.

5. Make sure your shocks and struts are working properly. Look for oil leaks and other signs of damage.

6. Check all lights and bulbs-headlights, brake and tail lights, turn signals, license plate bulbs, etc.

7. If your windshield wipers are streaking and smearing, or if they are more than six months old, replace them.

8. Replace your air filter and "forgotten filters"— the fuel filter, the PCV valve and the breather filter.

9. Add a bottle of fuel system cleaner at your next fill-up.

10. Top off all fluid levels, including windshield washer fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid and antifreeze. Don't forget to check all cells of your battery and top them off with distilled water.

Even when you take these steps to be a better, safer driver, there may be times when your car will tell you that it needs extra attention. If your "check engine" light stays on when you drive, your automotive service center can help you pinpoint the problem. A mechanic will check your engine's trouble codes or loan you the tools to check them yourself.

Car care shouldn't stop under the hood. Give your car a thorough washing and waxing to protect it from the elements. If left to bake in the hot sun, bird droppings, tree sap and dead bugs can permanently harm your car's finish. Be sure to use a soap designed for washing cars. A good car soap will clean off grime and is specifically made to work on a car's finish.

Dishwashing liquid is meant to cut grease and grime on dishes and actually can strip the wax off a car.

After you've washed your vehicle, wax it with a high-quality car wax. Then buff and shine your car's finish to perfection. This will shield it from the heat and UV rays of the sun as the days begin to grow longer.

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