How to Summer-ize Your Car: Top 5 Summer Car Care Tips
By: Good2GoPublished: June 9, 2014
Summer driving can take a toll on your car. Between the long road trips and family vacations, your car will be taking a beating for the next three months. And let’s not forget about the heat! To make sure your vehicle is in tip top shape for fun in the sun, follow these five car maintenance tips for summer.
1. Check your A/C and cooling systems
Before you even think about hitting the road this summer, make sure your cooling and air conditioning systems are working properly. Coolant issues and overheated engines are the most common causes of breakdowns, and many cooling system problems result from insufficient air flow to the radiator.
Take the time to clean out any type of debris that may be clogging up the fins of the radiator and the air conditioning condenser. You will also want to check your car’s radiator cap at the beginning of the summer driving season. Because the cap is regularly exposed to high temperatures, the internal rubber gasket can become cracked or damaged. It is recommended you replace radiator caps that are more than five years old.
Also, not all coolants are made the same. When choosing your coolant (or antifreeze), check your owner’s manual to see which type they recommend for your make and model. Coolant is essential to ensure peak performance of your engine and helps maintain engine temperature to prevent overheating.
2. Clean your battery
Summer heat can accelerate the rate of corrosion on your car’s battery, causing it to break down more easily. Take the time to check your vehicle’s battery cables and make sure they are securely attached to the terminals. If you see any signs of corrosion, clean the terminals immediately. Giving your battery a thorough cleaning requires disconnecting the cables to clean any hidden areas where they make contact with the terminals.
Also, be sure to get your battery tested before a long road trip to determine if it needs replacing. Depending on the climate and your driving habits, most car batteries have a three to five year service life, but if you live in hotter climates, you may need to have your battery tested after two years of ownership, then every year afterward.
3. See and be seen
While summertime offers more daylight, you still need to be visible to other drivers when the sun finally sets. Check your headlights, tail lights and brake lights to make sure they are working properly and that there are no hidden wiring problems. You will also want to clean your windows of insects, leaves and other debris that may obstruct your vision and safety.
Be sure to replace worn out windshield wipers as the rubber insert lasts between six to 12 months depending on their level of environmental exposure. Also, check to see that the washer-fluid reservoir is full. You should check the reservoir monthly and top it off with a solution formulated to aid in the removal of summer bugs and other debris. Test the washer spray nozzles for proper operation and aim before hitting the road.
4. Don’t forget to check the oil
Oil is critical to the life of your car. It keeps the hardworking parts of the engine running smoothly and efficiently. Most owner’s manuals suggest that you change your oil and oil filter every 7,500 miles. With newer car models, some manufacturers recommend oil changes as high as 15,000 miles. But of course how often you need to change your oil depends on how much abuse your car endures, and most of us do a lot of heavy driving during the summer when the engine is more likely to overheat. To be on the safe side, check your oil before you head out on that family vacation.
To check your oil, make sure your vehicle is parked on a level surface and the engine is off. Open the hood and find the oil dipstick. When removing the dipstick, the oil should be brownish yellow in color and wipe cleanly off the stick. If the oil is dark or contains a lot of dirt and grime, you will need an oil change and oil filter replacement immediately. If your oil is low, use your best judgment and either add an additional quart if you’ve changed your oil recently or change the oil completely.
5. Keep your tires in check
Last week, we discussed the importance of tire safety and maintenance during National Tire Safety Week. Tire pressure changes when the temperature rises, which means for every 10-degree increase in outside air temperature, your tires are losing one to two PSIs. Keeping your tires properly inflated not only improves fuel efficiency, but it also ensures that your car can perform evasive maneuvers in case of an emergency.
When inspecting your tires, make sure they are properly inflated, including the spare. If you don’t have a spare, have an alternative solution such as emergency sealant and an inflator kit. You may also want to consider purchasing run-flat tires. These options will allow you to drive your car until you reach a safe location for assistance.
So before you declare the commencement of your summer vacation, be sure to use these five summer car care tips to ensure that your car is running safely, properly and efficiently during these hot summer months.
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