Summertime is the time to travel. Even though gasoline prices are at an all-time low, Americans still can’t resist the appeal of the sun and open roads.
You can save money and keep your family safe by taking a few simple precautions before you hit the road. The extreme heat and long distances can be hard on your car. Cracked hoses and radiators that leak, dirty filters, underinflated tires, and cracked hoses can all reduce your fuel efficiency or even cause a breakdown.
10: Check Your Tires
Check your tire pressure with a reliable gauge regularly.
Tires are often overlooked when it comes to maintaining a vehicle. According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, only one in ten drivers check their tire pressure. Nearly seven out of ten wash their car regularly. The truth is, a tire that’s under-inflated or over-inflated can be dangerous.
Tire pressure will change with rising temperatures. It is estimated that the tire pressure will increase by one to two PSI for every 10 degrees of temperature rise. Check your owner’s guide or the sidewall to determine the tire pressure. You can also use a pressure gauge, or let the mechanics do it.
A tire that is underinflated bulges and places undue pressure on the tire sidewalls. The tire will eventually blow if it is exposed to enough heat and pressure. A tire that is over-inflated, on the contrary, has less contact with the road, which can cause hydroplaning when it’s wet.
The penny trick is a great way to check if your tires have enough tread. If Lincoln’s face disappears when you stick a penny into the tread of your tire, then it’s good. You can have your tires checked for alignment and balance by your local tire shop.
Don’t forget your spare tire! It’s pointless to have a spare tire in poorer condition than your other tires. The spare tire should be properly inflated with sufficient tread depth.
Incorrectly inflated or misaligned tire can reduce your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. You could waste up to one gallon per month if your tires are eight pounds underinflated.
9: Replace oil and oil filter
Check your oil regularly.
Your car’s lifeblood is oil. It keeps the engine running smoothly and clean. According to most owner’s manuals, you should change your oil and filter every 7,500 kilometers (12,070 miles). Oil specialists recommend changing your oil every 3,000 miles (4.828 kilometers) which is three months. Most of us drive a lot during the summer, when engines are more likely to overheat. Check your oil before heading out on a road trip with the whole family.
Check your oil by letting your car run for several minutes. Then park your vehicle on a flat surface, and turn off the engine. Locate the dipstick under the hood. Here you’ll be looking at two things: the amount of oil, and the appearance of the oil. You can add more oil if you run out or change your oil entirely if you are low. On the stick, it should be brownish-yellow and clean. You need to change your oil and replace the filter if you notice that it is dark or dirty.
Didn’t you do many of these things to prepare your car for the colder weather conditions? Yes, in fact. We’ll discuss some winter maintenance that you should not do in the summer on the following page.
Recycle your oil!
Do not dispose of the used oil filter or the old oil in the trash. This oil can end up in local streams or groundwater. Put the oil into a recyclable container, such as an empty 2-liter soda bottle. Place the filter on a plastic tray or pan and let it drain 12 hours. Add the oil to a two-liter bottle. Place the used filter into a plastic bag. Take everything to your local recycling center. Used oil and filters are accepted by many auto parts and oil change shops.
8: De-Winterize your car
Snow tires are heavy. After winter, switch to lighter all-season tires. The weight of snow tires will reduce your fuel efficiency.
Check all fluid levels, including coolant, transmission fluid, differential fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid, to ensure there are no leaks. Oil will also need to be changed, as it can become thicker and accumulate condensation when left in the engine over the winter. You may need to recharge your battery or replace it if you haven’t been using it for a long time.
After a long, snowy winter it’s important to thoroughly clean the underneath your car. Salt used to melt ice and snow on roads can cake up on your car’s underside and start to eat the metal. The accumulation of gunk on the underside of your car will make it run hotter because heat can’t escape through the bottom.
You can clean your undercarriage using a simple water hose, or a high-pressure cleaning machine. Professional car wash and detailing services offer a steam cleaning service to remove really bad buildup.
7: Check Hoses & Belts
Your car can overheat if a hose or belt breaks.
Keep your engine cool to enjoy summer driving. Soon we’ll talk about coolant and radiator, but you should first check your hoses. The belts and hoses that connect to the radiator pump coolant into and out of the engine block. They also run the fan, which helps to cool the system. The radiator can quickly overheat if the hoses or belts break.
Check for leaks, cracks and loose connections. Hoses must be firm and not soft or malleable. Hoses are subject to a process of slow degradation called electrochemical degrading (ECD), which eats rubber hoses from the inside. The most vulnerable areas of the hoses are the ones closest to the clamps, where the hose is connected to the radiator or engine.
You can also visually inspect the belt for damage and cracks. Note if the belt appears excessively smooth or slick. Remove the belt and check to see if the material is separating. According to experts, the likelihood of a belt failing increases dramatically after 36,000 miles.
6: Replace the air filter
Replace your air filter in your car every 12,000 miles.
Over the winter months, your air filter may become clogged up with salt or other heavy debris. Clogged air filters can reduce your fuel efficiency. Replace a dirty air filter to improve your gas mileage up to 10%.
How do you know the right time to replace your air filter? It is recommended that you change your air filter every 12,000 miles. However, this can vary depending on the road and air conditions where you drive. Your air filter will clog much more quickly if you drive on gravel or dirt roads. Take your air filter out and inspect it.
A slightly dirty airfilter works better than one that is completely clean. The debris in the air filter is part of the filtering system, and traps smaller particles which would have otherwise passed.
It’s not a science to know when to change the filter. It’s obvious that the filter needs to be replaced if it is really dirty. If you’re not sure, just go with what feels right. You might as well change it if you are preparing to drive hard for the summer. Air filters are inexpensive.
5: Replace your windshield wipers
Storms that are strong can bring a lot of rain to your car. Will your wipers be able to handle the rain?
Summer is a time of violent, sudden thunderstorms. You need windshield wipers to work when buckets of rain are pounding against your glass. This is especially true at night when a stormy rain can reduce visibility to as little as 15 or 20 feet.
Winter is tough on wipers. Rubber wipers become less effective when they are damaged by ice, snow, salt, and extreme temperatures. Replace your wipers if they leave visible streaks, or if it takes several passes to remove light rain.
It is better to replace the entire wiper blade and not just the rubber portion. You can find the correct blades at an auto parts shop. They will know your vehicle’s make, model and age. It can be tricky if you have never changed wiper blades. Take your time and read the instructions. Everything should go smoothly. You should also pay attention to the way that your wiper blades are attached. It may be more important than the information on the box of new wiper blades.
4: Check your brakes
Early repair of brake problems can help prevent bigger issues in the future, and keep your family and you safe while driving.
The brakes on your vehicle are the most important part of safety. This summer, don’t risk your safety or that of your family by driving with brakes that are worn out or defective.
When the brake linings on the brake shoes or pads are worn to the minimum thickness required by your car’s manufacturer or the state, it is time to replace them. Your brake linings can be checked by any service shop, or by a brake specialist.
Check your brakes for these signs:
- The brake pedal is very soft.
- Your brake pedal is extremely hard and resistant
- You brake pedal is too high or low
- Dashboard warning or indicator lights
- Brakes are making loud and continuous scraping and grinding noises
Squealing brakes may not be a sign that there is a problem. Squeaking brakes can be caused by a variety of factors, including moisture in the brake shoes, pads, and discs. Only if you hear a grinding or scraping noise should you be concerned. This can be a sign that metal is in contact with metal, which could permanently damage brake components.
It is important to get your brakes inspected and repaired as soon you can if you have a problem. If you don’t fix minor brake problems in a timely fashion, the cost of repair can be very high.
3: Check Coolant and Radiator
The cars are made to run hot. However, there is a limit on how hot the car should be. The combustion engine operates best at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. If an engine gets too hot, the moving metal parts may start to melt, and this can cause internal engine problems.
All modern cars are equipped with an advanced cooling system. It uses a chemical called Antifreeze and a number of fans, pumps, hoses and thermostats to maintain the optimal operating temperature. Any problems with the cooling system, such as low coolant, cracked hoses or belts that are loose or broken, or a radiator leak or cap, can cause your vehicle to overheat.
Summer is hard on cooling systems. One of the fastest ways to heat up your car is by sitting in traffic during a hot summer day. The engine is overheating because no air is flowing across it to keep it cool. If your cooling system is well-tuned, it can withstand long idles during hot weather. However, if there are low coolant levels, or you have a broken fan belt, the engine temperature will rise quickly.
Make sure your coolant is at the correct level. As a general rule, you should flush your radiator every two years and replace the coolant. The radiator should be flushed with a chemical to remove any debris or buildup inside the radiator. Coolant is added to the vehicle in a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze for summer driving. You can buy pre-mixed coolant to avoid having to measure.
You may have a leak if you notice a small pool of coolant underneath your car after it has been parked. You should take your car to a service station to have it checked as soon as possible.
2: Cleaning Your Battery
Your car will not run at its best if your battery terminals are corroded. You can remove it with a paste of baking soda mixed with water.
Winter is notorious for the early morning jumpstarts and dead batteries. The truth is, hot weather can be even more damaging to your battery.
The heat of summer can accelerate the chemical reactions inside batteries, leading to overcharging. It can drastically reduce the battery’s lifespan. The battery can be damaged by heat evaporating the internal battery fluid.
Keep your battery clean to ensure it runs smoothly. Detach your battery cables regularly and clean the terminals. Secure the battery and all connections by securing it tightly.
You can take your battery to a shop for a quick inspection if you suspect it is overcharged. If you do need to replace your battery, be sure it is the correct type for the make and model that you have.
1: Maintenance of Your Air Conditioning
It’s not the best time to let your air conditioner run out on a hot summer day.
You know how much a little cooling air can make a difference when you lose your air conditioner on a hot day in the summer. If your air conditioner can’t maintain or generate temperatures 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degree Celsius) below ambient air temperature, then it may be a problem.
Low refrigerant levels are the most common cause for a malfunctioning unit. A leak in the system could cause this. It’s best to let a professional inspect the problem since modern air conditioners are complex creatures.
Since 1994, the air conditioning industry has undergone a major transformation. The Federal Government banned the use of R-12, also known as Freon. If your air conditioner was not blowing cool, you would go to a service shop and they would top off your car with Freon.
Freon is a chlorofluorocarbon that is very destructive to the ozone. The majority of people required Freon refills due to leaks. Millions of pounds of Freon are released into the atmosphere each year by simply refilling leaky air conditioners.
You should have the refrigerant in your vehicle checked by a professional licensed to dispose or recycle it. In some states it is illegal to refill an R-12 system that has a leak. Even older cars can easily be retrofitted with the safer, newer type of refrigerant, R-134a.