Summertime is travel time. Even if gasoline costs are at an all-time high, Americans are unable to resist the allure of blue skies and free roads. According to a study by AAA, 31,7 million Americans intended to travel by automobile for the Memorial Day weekend in 2008, despite the fact that gas prices were an average of $0.60 per gallon higher than the year before [source: The Los Angeles Times].
Before hitting the road this summer, you may take a few basic precautions to protect your family and save money at the gas station. High heat and lengthy travels may be taxing on automobiles. Broken hoses, leaking radiators, underinflated tires, and clogged filters can drastically reduce your fuel efficiency, or even cause a total failure.
10: Check Your Tires
Tires are one of the most neglected components of a vehicle. According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), only one in ten drivers correctly monitors tire pressure, compared to nearly seven in ten who routinely wash their automobiles [source: RMA]. In reality, however, a tire that is underinflated, overinflated, worn out, or misaligned can be exceedingly hazardous, especially in the summer heat.
Around one to two PSI (pounds per square inch) is lost or gained for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit increase in ambient air temperature [source: RMA]. Check your owner’s handbook or the sidewall of your tire to determine the proper tire pressure, then check it using a hand-held tire pressure tester or have the service department do it for you.
Under-inflated tires bulge outward and exert excessive pressure on the sidewalls. With sufficient heat and pressure, that tire will eventually blow. In contrast, an overinflated tire has less contact with the road and can cause hydroplaning in rainy weather.
Do the penny test to determine if your tires still have sufficient tread. Put a cent in the tread, and if the head of Abraham Lincoln disappears, you’re good to go [source: CBS News]. Your local service shop or specialized tire store can also check the alignment and balance of your tires.
And do not forget your spare tire! It is useless to have a spare tire if it is in worse condition than the others. Ensure that the spare tire is adequately inflated and has sufficient tread depth.
Possibly, the summer heat has made you thirsty. Your automobile might also need a drink. Learn more on the following page.
9: Change Oil and Oil Filter
Oil is the blood of your vehicle. It keeps operating engine components clean, smooth, and cool. Most owner’s manuals recommend an oil and filter change every 7,500 miles (12,070 kilometers). Specialists recommend changing the oil every 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers) or three months. During the summer, when an engine is more susceptible to overheat, most of us undertake a great deal of heavy driving. So at least check your oil before embarking on that family road trip.
Let your car run for a few minutes, then park it on a flat area and turn off the engine to check the oil. Find the oil dipstick by lifting the hood. You’re interested in two things here: the oil’s amount and its appearance [source: CBS News]. If you’re running low on oil, you can either add another quart or replace it entirely. On the stick, the oil should appear brownish yellow and clean. If the oil is a dark color or contains a great deal of dirt and filth, you must replace the oil and oil filter immediately.
Hey, didn’t you do several of these things when you prepared your car for winter? In point of fact, absolutely. On the following page, we will examine certain winter maintenance that should be undone for the summer.
8: De-Winterize Your Car
If you followed our Top 10 Vehicle Winterizing Recommendations to the letter, there are a few things you must do to “unwinterize” your vehicle for the summer. Get rid of the snow tires immediately. Snow tires are hefty and will reduce your gas mileage.
Check the coolant, gearbox, differential, power steering, and brake fluid levels to ensure there were no leaks if you haven’t driven your car much throughout the winter or if you have stored it. You will also need to change the oil, as oil that sits in the engine all winter becomes heavy and gathers humidity. If you haven’t used your battery in some time, it may require recharging or replacement.
After a long winter, it is essential to thoroughly clean the car’s underside, especially if you live in a snowy climate. The salt used to melt snow and ice on highways can adhere to the underneath of your vehicle and corrode the metal. The inability of heat to escape through the car’s undercarriage is exacerbated by a buildup of grime, causing the engine and transmission to run hotter.
With a standard water hose or a high-pressure cleaning equipment, you can clean the undercarriage yourself. Some professional car washes and detailing firms now offer high-pressure steam cleaning for really filthy buildup.
On the following page, we will examine the hoses and belts of your engine, which you may have overlooked.
7: Check Hoses and Belts
The key to summer driving is maintaining a cool engine. We will shortly discuss the radiator and coolant, but first you must inspect the hoses and belts. The pipes attached to the radiator assist in pumping coolant to and from the engine block, while the belts drive the fan that further cools the system [source: CBS News]. If the hoses rupture or the belts break, the radiator will overheat rapidly, leaving you stranded.
Examine hoses for fractures, leaks, and connections that are loose. Hoses should never be flexible or pliable. Electrochemical degradation (ECD) is a slow deterioration process that eats away at rubber hose material from the inside [source: Consumer Reports]. The sections of a hose that are closest to the radiator or engine clamps are the most vulnerable.
Belts can also be visually examined for deterioration and cracks. Consider whether the belt appears extremely slick or silky. Remove the belt to verify that the material has not begun to separate into layers. At 36,000 miles (57,936 kilometers), the probability of belt failure increases considerably, according to experts [source: Consumer Reports].
Does it really make sense to update your air filter annually? Continue reading to learn more.
6: Change the Air Filter
Your car’s air filter might become blocked with salt and other particles during the winter. A clogged air filter can significantly reduce your fuel economy. Changing a clogged or dirty air filter can increase gas mileage by up to 10 percent. [source: Pep Boys].
Yet, how can you know when to replace the air filter? The suggested interval is every 12,000 miles (19,312 kilometers), but this can vary depending on the route and weather conditions. If you frequently drive on dirt or gravel roads, your air filter will clog considerably more quickly than one in a vehicle used exclusively for highway traffic. The only method to determine if you need to change your air filter is to remove it and check it.
Surprisingly, a slightly soiled air filter performs better than a spotless one [source: Yahoo! Autos]. This is due to the fact that the debris in the filter becomes a part of the filtration process, trapping smaller particles that would have otherwise escaped.
There is no true science to determining when the filter should be replaced. If it is extremely filthy, then it must be replaced. Otherwise, follow your instincts. If you are ready for a long summer of intense driving, you should consider replacing it. Air filters are reasonably priced.
Are you prepared to drive in summertime rain? Discover on the following page.
5: Replace Your Windshield Wipers
Summer is infamous for severe, abrupt thunderstorms. When buckets of water are pelting your windshield, you need effective windshield wipers. Even more so at night, when a rainstorm might reduce visibility in front of your vehicle to 15 or 20 feet.
Winter is difficult for windshield wipers. Ice, snow, salt, and high temperatures cause cracks and tears in the rubber of windshield wipers, reducing their efficacy. If your windshield wipers leave noticeable streaks or require multiple passes to clear light rain, they should be replaced.
When changing a windshield wiper, it is preferable to replace the entire blade, not just the rubber tip [source: NAPA Online]. Visit an auto parts store, and they will be able to provide you with the correct blades for your vehicle’s make, model, and year. If you’ve never replaced windshield wipers before, it can be difficult. Take your time and thoroughly follow the instructions, and everything should work fine. Seeing how the original wiper blades were installed is also recommended. This information may be more useful than anything printed on the new wiper blade packaging.
Do not cease now. Discover more about your brakes on the following page.
4: Check Your Brakes
Your vehicle’s brakes are the single most crucial safety element. This summer, do not put yourself or your family at risk by riding about with old or defective brakes.
When the lining on your brake pad or brake shoe has worn below the minimum thickness allowed by the automobile manufacturer or state legislation, you must repair your brakes [source: Yahoo! Autos]. You can have your brake linings inspected at any standard service facility or by a brake specialist.
These are some indications that your brakes require inspection:
- Your brake pedal becomes extremely mushy and spongy.
- Your brake pedal has a very firm and unyielding feel.
- Your brake pedal is either too high or too low.
- Warning or indicator lights on the dashboard
- Constant and loud scraping and grinding noises emanating from the brakes.
Surprisingly, screaming brakes do not always indicate a problem. There are numerous causes for squealing and squeaking brakes, including moisture on the brake pads, discs, shoes, and drums. If the squealing turns into a scraping or grinding sound, you should get concerned. This indicates metal-on-metal contact, which can cause lasting damage to brake components.
Whenever you discover a problem with your brakes, you should have them inspected or serviced as soon as possible. Even small faults can significantly increase the expense of a brake repair if they are not addressed in a timely manner.
If the engine overheats, your automobile will not run. Discover how to maintain your cool on the following page.
3: Check the Coolant and Radiator
Automobiles are built to operate hot, yet there is a maximum acceptable temperature. At about 200 degrees Fahrenheit, a combustion engine is at its most efficient (93 degrees Celsius). Nevertheless, if an engine is allowed to overheat, moving metal parts can actually begin to melt and fuse together, resulting in a range of internal engine difficulties and, you guessed it, a costly repair price.
Modern automobiles are equipped with a clever cooling system that employs antifreeze and a network of pumps, hoses, thermostats, and fans to maintain the appropriate operating temperature. Low coolant levels, fractured hoses, loose or broken belts, a radiator leak, or even a faulty or missing radiator cap can cause your vehicle to overheat and fail.
Summer is difficult on cooling systems. Waiting in traffic on a hot day is one of the most expedient ways to cause your car to overheat. This is due to the lack of airflow across the engine, which helps to keep it cool. A well-tuned cooling system can tolerate extended idles in hot weather, but if you have low coolant levels or a broken fan belt, your engine temperature can rise quickly.
Inspect under the hood to ensure that the coolant levels are satisfactory. The standard recommendation is to flush your radiator and add new coolant every two years. The radiator is flushed with a specific chemical that removes trash and buildup from within the radiator. During summer driving, antifreeze and water should be supplied at a 50/50 ratio. You can even purchase pre-mixed coolant, eliminating the need for precise amounts.
If you notice a little pool of coolant under your vehicle after it has been parked for a long, you have a leak. As soon as possible, bring it to the service station to have the system checked out.
On the following page, we will discuss something shocking: your car’s battery.
2: Clean Your Battery
The winter season is renowned for dead batteries and morning jumpstarts. Nevertheless, hot weather is considerably more taxing on your battery.
Summer heat can accelerate the chemical reaction within a battery, resulting in overcharging [source: CBS News]. This can drastically reduce the battery’s lifespan. By evaporating internal battery fluid, heat can potentially cause harm to the battery [source: Vehicle Care Council].
The easiest approach to maintain your battery’s optimal performance is to keep it clean. Often disconnect the battery cables and clean the terminals. Ensure that the battery is secured and that all connections are secure.
If you feel that your battery is being overcharged or is not holding a charge well, you should bring it to a repair shop so that it may be inspected. And if you need to replace the battery, be sure to purchase the correct battery for your vehicle’s make and model.
What is our most important summer auto maintenance tip? Continue reading to learn more.
1: Maintain Your Air Conditioning
If you’ve ever been without air conditioning on a hot summer day, you know how much a small bit of cool air can make. If your air conditioner cannot generate or maintain air temps 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) below the ambient outside air temperature, it likely has a problem.
Low refrigerant levels are the most typical reason of a faulty air conditioning machine. This could be the result of a leak in the system. Due to the complexity of modern air conditioning systems, it is preferable to have a professional examine the issue.
Since 1994, when the federal government banned the use of the refrigerant R-12, also known by its brand name Freon, a lot has changed in the air conditioning repair industry. In the past, if your car’s air conditioner wasn’t blowing cool air, you would head to the service station, where they would add some Freon and send you on your way.
The difficulty is that Freon, a chlorofluorocarbon, is particularly ozone-destructive. The majority of individuals required Freon refills due to leaks. By simply refilling the leaking air conditioning systems, millions of pounds of Freon were released annually into the sky.
If your vehicle was manufactured before 1994, you must have the refrigerant inspected by a licensed technician who knows how to dispose of or recycle the material. In certain states, it is illegal to refill a leaking R-12 system. But, even older vehicles may be modified easily to use the newer, safer refrigerant known as R-134a.
Check out the links on the next page for additional maintenance and repair advice.