Extreme weather can take its toll on your car, making it difficult to get it started on cold mornings and overheating on the hottest days. Summer throws heat, dust, and traffic tie-ups your way, increasing the likelihood that you will face a breakdown. The following preventive maintenance tips can keep your car running smoothly throughout the next heatwave.
Check the Battery
An old battery may not survive the summer. If your car’s battery is near the end of its useful life, then replace it. Older batteries simply cannot provide a full charge and won’t be able to handle the heavy electric demands placed on it by your climate control system, navigation, audio system, and lights. Newer batteries can also fail if there is a build-up of corrosion. You can safely remove battery corrosion yourself, a job best handled with baking soda, a few hand tools, and petroleum jelly.
Change Your Fluids
Most drivers will change their oil twice annually or at least as often as the intervals outlined in their owner’s manual. Timing your oil changes to take place before extreme temperatures kick in is a sensible approach to preventive maintenance. Your owner’s manual will list the right oil grade for your car. You will notice some differences in viscosity between winter and summer oils, the latter permitting a slightly thicker oil. Where 5W30 oil may be needed in the winter, 10W30 oil may be ideal for the summer. Change your oil fluids at this time and do the same for your brake, power steering, and transmission fluids.
Examine Belts and Hoses
A broken belt or a cracked hose can leave you stranded. Most of the time you can prevent such breakdowns by examining belts and hoses periodically. Visible signs of cracking, fraying, and bulging are among the warnings telling you that something needs to be replaced. Other signs are not so apparent and require a more thorough examination. For belts, you can check for tightness when the engine is turned off. Simply press down on each belt with your thumb and if you observe that it gives more than one-quarter of an inch, it should be replaced.
For hoses, particularly the vacuum hose, you will want to examine it when the car is running. Lift and secure the hood, and listen for a hissing noise. Avoid any moving parts by carefully moving your hand across the surface of the hose to discover its leak. Your fingers will be pulled against the hose if a leak is apparent and the car’s idle may change as you cover the hole. Replace as needed.
Check Climate and Coolant Systems
Your climate control system cools your car’s cabin. Your coolant system keeps your engine running smoothly, sending cooling fluids through the engine block to prevent overheating. Both systems should be examined prior to your next summer road trip. If you had your coolant replaced within the past year, you can top off a cooled down radiator with a 50:50 mixture of coolant and water. Otherwise, replace coolant that has been in place for at least a year.
You can purchase a radiator flush kit and do the job yourself or let your mechanic handle it. Either way, it isn’t a job you want to put off as a blown engine gasket may be the price you will have to pay for your neglect. Your climate control system contains refrigerant and this fluid can leak, forcing your compressor to work harder. That puts a strain on your engine and, like the coolant system, it is a key contributor to summer breakdowns. Your mechanic can pressure test the system, diagnose problems and replenish the refrigerant.
Take Note of the Rubber
Excessive heat causes the rubber to lose its elasticity, wearing out your wiper blades faster. You want a good pair of blades in place for your summer drive and replacing them with silicone rubber provides improved visibility and durability. Your tires are also made from rubber and are subject to aging as well as wear and tear.
Excessive heat can magnify tire problems causing tires to flex more. Cracks, rot or other problems can quickly lead to tire failure. Keep your tires inflated to the proper level, rotate them every 6,000 miles, and replace your worn-out rubber.
As summer’s heat settles in, your car should be ready to handle the worst weather conditions. Ensure that your headlights, turn signal lights, and tail lights are in working order too, replacing burnt-out bulbs as needed.
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