Y’all, it’s here: Spring Show Season is on us. While there may be salt still on the road here in the northern parts of the US, the southeast is already gearing up for their second major show of the season this weekend in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Friday, this writer will be heading back to his hometown for a weekend of debauchery at Riverside Spring Meet with some of the most well-known tuners on the scene. Without ruining the surprise appearances by some people you might know, we’ll leave the guest list as a mystery until the parties kick off on Friday night. For now, we’re going to talk about that ever-important prepwork needed to make sure your car is ready to show it’s Sunday best.

If you’re like me and park your fun car all winter in storage, chances are, you’ll have a pretty solid list of work to complete even if most everything in the car is new. Despite my recent overhaul prior to storage, it’s best practice to still run through everything and service areas that may have been affected by sitting all winter. 

First, the basics. I’d encourage everyone to drive their car before doing anything. I commuted in my E30 on the nicest day we had last week, which let me know right off the bat I have a little work to do besides just a spit n polish for the show. Fortunately, I took care of several things on the following list before I put the car away, so I won’t need to do them. You, however, just might. So pay attention.

Oil service – unless you changed your oil before storing your car (like I did), it is a good idea to just go ahead and do it after you shake the car down on a brief drive. Get any particles and gunk suspended in the oil rather than settled in the baffling of the pan to make sure you conduct a thorough cleaning and such.

Cooling service – this is particularly important for BMWs that suffer from weak cooling systems. Right before I stored my car, the pesky plastic part of my E30’s radiator sprung a slight leak. This prompted me to purchase a 318i radiator with an attached surge tank, new radiator hoses, a new thermostat (why not?) a water pump, and fresh coolant, of course. I overhauled my cooling system mostly from necessity, but a lot of that stuff is just good maintenance practices. Especially if your car has been sitting for months in varying temperatures and humidities, which can make that plastic and rubber brittle. It’s a good idea to just go ahead and run a coolant flush, make sure you’re leak-free, and ensure your thermostat isn’t sticking. Our Assembled By ECS cooling service kits are a good go-to.

Brake service – this is less associated with the car sitting for the winter and more about being a second car to begin with. Since I only drive my fun car when, well, I want to have fun, brakes are one of those things that I tend to think ‘oh, I just did that not too long ago.’ In reality, I haven’t changed my brakes since well before I moved from Nashville to Ohio and have definitely driven the car very hard since then. Thanks to my shakedown drive, I noticed the rear calipers are a little sticky and my pads are very worn. This prompted me to go ahead and replace everything since if one caliper is sticky, the others will be soon. So new caliper rebuild kits, pads, rotors, fresh fluid, and lines are all going on the car before my drive down on Friday. If you don’t remember the last time you did brakes, this is the perfect time to take care of that service with a full Assembled By ECS Kit.

Ignition – Listen on that first drive for misfires. I, fortunately, replaced my plugs and coils when I did my cooling service refresh shortly before winter. I didn’t expect any issues, but I still make a habit to listen to the engine under load and at idle for anything that sounds sketchy. Coils are probably not high on the list, but spark plugs are another thing that if you don’t remember the last time you replaced them, then it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and do that.

Battery – If you didn’t keep your battery on a tender all winter, prepare to buy a new battery. This is fairly obvious, because your car will probably not start. If it doesn’t start due to a dead battery, you will most likely need to replace it. Before you do, however, try out the Schwaben battery tender with recovery mode. It has saved my ‘dead’ battery and kept it going for the last two years, effectively helping me get the last bit of life from the little guy before I really should replace it. 

Wipers – put these in the camp of ‘don’t remember until you need them’ parts. If you have let your car sit all winter, you probably don’t remember the last time you used your wipers. If you drove all winter, you’ve enjoyed salt and ice and who knows what else eating those blades. You should probably replace your wipers

Bath time – now that you’ve taken care of all the maintenance goodies, it’s time to give the sled a good old fashioned hand wash. Undeniably, dust will have gathered all over your car. SONAX has all the goodies you need to make your first wash of the season a thorough one, a cleaning as comprehensive as the service you just completed. This is also a good time to get those show and shine products like microfibers, dry wash, polish, and wheel cleaner so you can touch up your car to perfection when you park at the venue. 

‘Well dang, Craig, that’s like half the freakin’ car!’ You might be saying as you read this. Yes, it is. I also know the list is pretty blatantly obvious if you know even the first thing about cars. I’m not writing this because I don’t have confidence in your knowledge, but because I am guilty of jumping the gun on show season myself. Often, I don’t want to take care of those little things that stand between me and driving my car if I haven’t been behind the wheel for months. I get it, we all want to drive. Just slow down for a second and take the few minutes to do basic services now before the season really gets into full swing so you won’t have to stop abruptly to fix something that could have been avoided. So grab your tools, Assembled By ECS service kits, and get your car into fighting shape.