Temperature extremes can wreak havoc on your car, increasing the likelihood of a problem leading to a breakdown. Indeed, sub-zero weather may keep your car from starting, while a heatwave can cause it to overheat.
Summer weather is here and with it comes extreme temperatures. No, the Fahrenheit does not need to top 90 degrees to cause mischief. However, a combination of poor maintenance habits and heat can conspire to suddenly disable your car, forcing you to call for assistance.
Here’s how to keep your car running during hot weather.
Examine Your Owner’s Manual
The best way to avoid a breakdown is to keep your car properly maintained. And that maintenance is outlined in your owner’s manual, typically tucked away in your glove box, gathering dust.
Pull out the owner’s manual and familiarize yourself with it. Learn what maintenance due items are coming up and complete them, especially if you are planning a long trip. Look back as well — you may have missed something.
Consider Severe Duty Car Care
As you examine your owner’s manual, you will typically find two levels of car care — standard and severe service. Severe duty may pertain only to a few things, such as changing the oil and fluids.
Standard care routinely covers vehicles where owners drive to work or use their cars for personal use. On the other hand, severe service should be applied to vehicles operated in dusty conditions or for vehicles used to regularly tow, operate in sandy areas, or aren’t driven enough.
Adopt the severe schedule if you live in a southern state or wherever high temperatures are constant for several months during the summer. Older vehicles or models with 75,000 or miles on the odometer should also adhere to the more rigorous severe duty schedule, covering oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and radiator coolant changes. Include your filter changes — oil, air, and fuel — and replace your cabin filter too.
Under the Hood
Beyond fluids, there are other things to examine while you’re looking under the hood. Start with your car’s battery to ensure the connection points are clean and secure. If your battery is old, check it with a voltmeter. If the battery voltage comes in less than 12.45 volts, it should be recharged with a battery charger. If the battery will not accept and hold a charge, then it should be replaced.
Belts and hoses are two other areas that must be checked. For belts, look for signs of wear and tear, sliding your fingers across the belt to pinpoint cracking, fraying, and missing sections. Check tension by pushing down on the belt. If it gives more than a half-inch, then change it.
As for hoses, check only when the engine has cooled. A hose is sufficient if it feels firm to the touch. On the other hand, you’ll want to replace it if has soft or mushy areas. Cracks and fraying are two other problems — both can lead to leaks.
Don’t Forget Your Tires
The only things separating two tons of car from the road are your tires. Thus, it is very important your tires are in top shape, especially for your next trip.
When properly inflated, tires offer sufficient grip on road surfaces. Oppositely, under-inflated tires can affect fuel economy, handling, and hasten tire wear. Tires with tread wear indicators showing should be replaced.
Adequately inflate your tires to the level outlined on the placard located on the driver’s door jamb. Don’t follow the number listed on the tires. Your spare tire should be in excellent shape and fully inflated. But know this: if your car is equipped with an air inflator kit, it won’t do you any good if you have a blowout. Therefore, consider bringing a full-size spare with you.
Getting it Done
There are a few more areas of your car to examine before you take to the road this summer.
Replace your worn wiper blades, check the air conditioning for sufficient cooling, replace burnt out lights, and test your brakes. Blades and bulb replacement you can handle yourself; coolant systems and brake care may require the assistance of an automotive technician.
Finally, you handle most problems en route if your car is equipped with basic tools, a flashlight and replacement batteries, duct tape, and a spare belt and hoses. An emergency kit contains many of these same items and can be assembled on your own or purchased.
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