Summer means different things to different people – summer vacations, the beach … maybe even a road trip? Get some tips on proper vehicle maintenance to make sure you don’t get stuck on the side of the road en route to your fun summer plans.
Where to focus your car maintenance efforts
Taking care of your battery is a key part of proper car maintenance. Hot weather causes battery fluid to evaporate which can damage the battery’s internal system. Have your battery and electrical system checked to make sure it’s charging normally. It’s also important to keep the top of the battery clean as dirt can be a conductor that drains the battery.
Keep it cool
Nothing ruins a road trip quite like a non-functioning air conditioner, so make sure it’s working properly before you leave town. Most air con malfunctions are caused by low levels of refrigerant, and the units need to be serviced every three years or so.
Keep it shiny
Hot summer sun can do serious damage to your paint, so make your paint-job a focus of your vehicle maintenance routine. Over time, exposure to the hot sun can cause oxidation and premature fading to your paint. To prevent this, try to park in shaded areas whenever possible (but not under trees – bird poop is bad too – if you get pooped on, wash it off as soon as possible). Parking in the shade protects your paint, but also your headlights and any rubber trim. One of the best preventative measures to protect your paint is waxing your car. Sure, it’s time consuming, but that one piece of car care can save you a lot of hassle in the long run. Wax protects paint from dings, scratches and UV radiation. Regular car washes can also help undo some of the damage caused by the sun (and the birds). Here are some tips for a great hand wash.
Don’t dry out
Checking your fluids (especially your coolant) – is car care 101. Make sure your coolant, transmission, differential, power steering and brake fluids are at their recommended levels. Cooling systems work extra hard in the summer to prevent your car from overheating, so check it often, but always wait for the radiator cap to cool first.
Your car is more likely to overheat in the summer. While many assume that overheating is caused mainly by hot weather, driving more than usual (say, on a summer road trip) can also cause your engine to overheat. Give your car a close inspection before going on any long drives, and don’t go anywhere until you check your oil – a car maintenance basic. If the oil appears dark or there’s visible dirt and grime present, it’s time to change your oil and replace the filter. Your owner’s manual should give you an idea of how often these car care steps should be done.
Keep it clear
Wipers that are cracked, torn or leave streaks all over your windshield aren’t much help in a summer rain storm. Spring for a new set of wiper blades before you head out for a summer cruise. Here are some tips on driving safely in those heavy rains.
Tires and alignment
Summer means potholes which can mess with your tires, so it’s a good idea to inspect your tires and have your alignment checked regularly, especially if you feel your car pulling to one side. Here are more tips to help your car survive pothole season. Other signs you need your alignment checked are; uneven tread wear, having to hold your wheel off-centre to drive straight and vibrations in your steering column.
Temperature changes impact the air pressure in your tires. Air pressure drops about one pound-force per square inch (PSI) for every 5°C drop in temperature, and it increases at the same rate as temperatures go up. Follow the tire pressure recommended in your owner’s manual – not the tire’s sidewall.
Driving on over or underinflated tires can reduce your fuel efficiency and cause premature wear-and-tear on your tires. Learn how to check your tread-wear here.