With fireworks and fanfare, summer has officially arrived. Every part of your car is put under stress in hot weather. Fluids go faster, components dry, crack, and corrode.
To keep you and your four-wheeled-best-friend cruising coolly through the hotter months, here are our top five summer car care tips.
Maintaining your car’s cooling system is number one for summer car care. It’s what prevents the engine from overheating. The coolant, a 50-to-70 percent mixture of ethylene or propylene glycol and water, is pumped through the engine, out a rubber hose, and into the radiator, where the heat is dispersed into the air by a fan and air flow as you drive, andcooled, back into the engine.
You want to quickly catch it if your system springs a leak. Belts and hoses connecting the system can develop cracks and tears from extreme temps. The radiator cap maintains pressure and acts as a safety release, unless it’s not on tightly enough. Hotter weather uses up coolant more quickly, too.
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Every week or so after it has been parked for a few hours, check under your car for leaking coolant. Coolant smells sweet, like syrup, and is usually a bright color. Warning signs of coolant issues also include the temperature gauge rising near the red zone, steam, white smoke, or hissing under the hood, and a strong sweet or burnt sugar scent. Also be aware that coolant is and is deadly to them, even in small amounts.
Check coolant levels by looking at the transparent white refill container under your hood. Car Talk advises, if the engine is hot, the level should read at or just below the max line; if the engine is cold, the coolant should read at or above the minimum or fill line.
In addition to maintaining the amount, coolant loses effectiveness with time, both to cool and protect the radiator from corrosion. When seasons change, it’s a good idea to get your system checked and flushed, especially as debris collect and can clog the system.
After months of snow, ice, and a daily cycle of freeze and defrost, even the most reliable rubber is likely cracked and torn. Ragged wiper blades are a driver’s worst nightmare in summer’s sudden downpours. It’s cheap and easy to replace your own wiper blades; pick them up from any hardware or auto store (and many will replace them for you if you prefer).
As with all car fluids, windshield cleaner runs out quicker in the summer, so check levels regularly. This is another easy task to do yourself; simply open the hood and locate the reservoir, usually near the base of the windshield.
Bet on Belts
Engine belts are essential to every vehicle function, so keeping your eyes and ears on them is a best bet for avoiding a summer breakdown. Belts need to be replaced regularly (based on your type of car), but extreme heat increases the chance they will become loose or misaligned, wear out, or exposed to fluids from leaks.
Visually check belts for missing chunks, cracks, embedded debris, and glazing, which indicates wear or oil on the belt.
You want to avoid issues with upkeep, but cruise safer through the summer by simply watching for warning signs. Belt problems are indicated by a burnt rubber smell, squeak or squeal when you accelerate, or a chirp at low speeds.
Our two cents when it comes to tires? A penny for your thoughts and a penny for your treads.
Remember to check your tires once a month for three things–think wear, air, and spare.
Worn-out tires are dangerous, especially in the summer, when hot wheels become more at risk for leaks, succumbing to sharp objects, and slipping on rainy roads. But it’s easy to check your tread–with Lincoln’s head! Insert a penny, upside down, into the groove; when the tread doesn’t cover the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time for new tires. Rotating your tires every 6,000 miles helps prevent uneven tire wear. Cracks, cuts, and bulges in the sidewall are warning signs.
Checking tire pressure is especially important in the summer, for fuel economy, safety, and to avoid blowouts, which become more likely as pavement heats up. It’s easy to check the air yourself, too. A car’s recommended PSI (pounds per square inch) is located on the drivers-side doorjamb and a small personal pressure gauge costs about five dollars.
Lastly, remember there’s five tires to care for–don’t forget to check the spare, too.
A summer car-care kit goes a long way toward keeping you and your ride cool all summer long, inside and out. A sunshade, a cardboard or plastic screen that covers your windshield completely, blocks the sun from roasting the interior of your car.
It’s always a good idea to carry a gallon or two of water, in case your car or passengers overheat. Sunscreen, antihistamine, towels, and wipes will all help maintain your summer cool, inside and out.
Finally, Fix-a-Flat, a can of emergency foam used to temporarily fix a tire, can save the day on a long road trip or when you have a car full of kids you need to get out of the heat.
From beaches to barbecues, these tips will keep you cruising coolly along every sun-soaked mile!
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