Summer Car Care: 5 Maintenance Tips and Best Practices
The summer driving season is traditionally the busiest out of the entire year, and that means your car or truck needs to be in tip-top shape so you can enjoy all of those extra miles completely trouble-free. It doesn’t take much effort to make sure that the maintenance is up to date on your vehicle before the weather turns warm, so we’ve put together this list of the best practices and helpful tips that will see you make it through to September without any unexpected surprises or repairs.
- Tire Inspection
Your tires take a beating all year round, especially if you don’t run winter-specific rubber during the colder weather. With summer right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to inspect each of your vehicle’s four tires for any sign that the might need to be replaced. Look for uneven tread wear (which could indicate an inflation or alignment issue), bubbles protruding, or chunks of rubber missing from the tread or sidewalls, as well as any overall wear that indicates it’s probably time for a new set of tires before you head out on your next road trip. It’s also a good idea to verify the air pressure in each tire and make sure that it matches what the manufacturer lists in the car or truck’s manual.
- Wipers And Belts
Tires aren’t the only rubber on your vehicle that can wear out. Two other important rubber components that should be inspected after spring has faded into summer, starting with your windshield wipers. Check to make sure that the blades haven’t dried out, that there are no abrasions or cuts that could smear your windshield, and that the washer fluid reservoir is full and shoots a strong jet onto the glass. You can look up your wiper blade size on our product finder tool.
Next, pop the hood and take a look at the engine belt – or belts, depending on the design – that sit at the front or to the side of the motor. You’re looking for signs of dryness or cracking, both of which mean it’s time for a replacement to reduce the chance that they’ll snap and leave you stranded. If one or more belts are making a high-pitched squeal when the motor is running, this, too, is typically a sign you should consider replacing them.
- Fluids And Filters
The changing of the seasons is usually a good marker for changing your automobile’s fluids – or at the very least taking a good look at them to make sure they’re capable of seeing you through the summer.
Oil change intervals are usually mileage dependent, but time is also a factor – if it’s been six months since you last swapped out your engine oil and filter, then it’s time to do it again, even if you didn’t drive the car all that much over the winter months. Fresh oil is especially important when dealing with the heat that your motor will encounter during summer driving. Find the right oil for your vehicle.
Heat is also the enemy of your vehicle’s cooling system, which is why it’s also crucial to verify that your car or truck’s antifreeze/coolant is topped up and capable of withstanding any spike in temperature. First, check to ensure your coolant is at the fill line on your coolant reservoir. You can also buy coolant testers at your local auto parts store, or have your mechanic inspect your cooling system if you spot a leak or a drip, or find a funny smell or dark, brownish color in the overflow tank. A good rule of thumb is to flush and fill your vehicle’s coolant every five years; we have simple how-to videos and product finder that can help you get the job done. It’s a small price to pay to avoid overheating on the side of the highway.
Finally, topoff your power steering fluid and transmission fluid if either of these indicates as being low on the dipstick. Does your car monitor these fluids for you? If so, check the onboard computer and see how much life they have left before they need to be replaced.
- Test That Battery
The concept of summer heat stressing out your car’s radiator, coolant, and engine oil is fairly straightforward, but we don’t often think about how the same kind of ordeal can affect your vehicle’s battery. Some battery designs are susceptible to internal corrosion and oxidation in hotter climates, while extra fluid evaporation can mean needing to top up water levels on batteries that require maintenance. Heat is the number one killer of car batteries. If you don’t see any corrosion on the electrodes (which should be cleaned to ensure a strong contact), or a bulge in the side of the casing (indicating it’s time to replace your battery), it’s worth having a battery that’s more than 3 years old professionally tested – usually for free – by a mechanic or at an auto parts store to make sure it will make it through the summer.
- Emergency Kit
If the worst case scenario does come to pass and you find yourself stuck on the side of the road, you’ll appreciate having packed a small emergency kit in the trunk or behind the seat. You’ll want to cover the basics: bottled water, a blanket in case it’s a cool summer night, emergency flares to make sure others can see you on the shoulder, a jump starter, flashlight, and first aid supplies such as bandages, gauze, painkillers (aspirin/Tylenol) and sunscreen. Before the summer starts, it’s always a good idea to replace the water with fresh bottles and check the batteries in the flashlight.