Getting your car ready for the long, hot summer months is just as important as getting it ready for the dreary winter. Just because winterizing your car gets more press than “summerizing” it doesn’t mean it should be ignored, especially if you plan on having a fun little road trip. Car maintenance is year-round must and we’ve compiled a list of some things you might wanna check into.
Baby Your Engine: Summer temperatures can wreak havoc on your engine. This rings especially true if your car is older. Heat affects every component of your car and anything that might be getting worn out is likely to fail faster when the temperature rises. While newer cars may not be as temperamentally minded, they too can start to break down when you are zooming across the country in a heat wave. Here are some things to pay close attention to:
Coolant – Before you set out to cross the Great Divide, you should check the coolant level. If it happens to be a bit low, chances are you have a small leak and need to get that fixed before traveling. Small leaks in high heats can quickly become big leaks. Even if your coolant level is fine, you might consider changing it if it has been more than 30,000 miles since your last coolant fluid change as it does break down over time and may cause corrosion.
Belts and Hoses – Drive belts or radiator hoses with cracks, even the little tiny ones need to be changed before the fail you altogether. Cracking means the rubber is drying out and summer temperatures will increase the rate of decay, possibly leaving you stranded in the middle of nowhere when they finally fail.
Oil – Oil needs to be checked and changed on a regular basis. Don’t run your motor if the oil is low or you may end up permanently damaging/destroying the engine. If you are driving an older car, you may want to use a heavier oil to prevent the oil from breaking down in the summer months. Newer cars typically use an all-season oil weight, but you can always ask your mechanic what weight they suggest for summer time use.
Other Fluids – Heat affects everything, including your brake fluid and windshield washer fluid use. Make sure everything is topped off before you set off on your road trip.
Think About Your Tires: Your tires are where the rubber meets the road, literally. Make sure your tires are up to the task of running on the hot roads of summer. Truckers know that running on bad tires in the summer causes blowouts, that’s why you see all those dead tread laying at the side of the road in the summer months more than any other time of year. If it is 100° outside, that generally means the surface of the road is 140° or more. Keep your tires healthy and they will get you where you’re going.
Air Pressure – Most tires inflate to about 36lbs. However, some people prefer to run them around 32lbs to get a softer ride. Either way, make sure your tires are inflated to the proper pressure as noted on the tire itself. Tires with low pressure may give you a softer ride but they will wear out faster and cause your MPG to suffer. Don’t over inflate though, over pressure tires in hot temperatures seem to blowout for some reason.
Rotate – The rule of thumb is to rotate your tires every time you get an oil change. Rotating your tires extends the life of the tires by making sure they wear evenly.
Replace – If your tires are looking a little bare it’s time to replace them. The same goes for tires that are cracking on the sidewalls or have irregular wear patterns. The hot summer roads will makes sure they fail when you need them most.
Swap Your Wipers: Just because it summer doesn’t mean you won’t need good wipers. The hot summer sun will bake and dry out your wipers, making them all but useless in a sudden summer rainstorm. Even if they appear to look okay right now, it’s best to swap them out before you set out on the road if it’s been a while.
Chill Out: If you haven’t had your car’s air conditioning looked at in some time, if ever, you might want to get the A/C system fully charged before your adventure begins. Nothing is worse than taking a road trip in an oven that does 75 miles per hour.
See the Big Picture: If you have owned your car for a while, chances are you know its maintenance history. Knowing what the general condition of your car is before attempting to drive thousands of miles is a good idea. If you don’t think she’ll make it, don’t do it. If you just bought your car, have a mechanic give it a close look to see if any problems are lurking.
Take care of your car and it will take care of you. Pre-trip car maintenance is as necessary as planning any other part of your road trip. Plan ahead and chances are your trip won’t hit any of the proverbial speed bumps that make your trip more interesting than it should be. Proper car maintenance makes driving into the sunset the stuff of legend.
~Drive safe, have fun