Summer is rapidly approaching, so you know what that means: Your car may be on the verge of failing. Excessive summer heat wreaks untold damage on the various temperature-sensitive systems of cars, and the hot weather months of June, July, and August boast the largest number of car-related problems. If you don’t want to stay high and dry with an out-of-commission car during the summer, you should get your car in high-performance, bikini-body shape with these six simple maintenance checks.
1. Check Your Fluid Levels
Different cars have different fluid requirements, but generally, you should be regularly checking up on your motor oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, coolant, and windshield washer fluid. After letting your car cool down completely — i.e. waiting an hour or more after you’ve driven it — and parking it on an even, level surface, you can check your fluid levels and quality.
Your owner’s manual will be able to tell you where you can find appropriate dipsticks and containers. If any of these vital fluids are low, you should check the pavement beneath your vehicle for spots that indicate leaks in the system. Most leaks occur in hoses, which are largely inexpensive and easily replaced. However, if you find a more complicated element of your engine needs a leak-free substitute, you can head to a trustworthy junkyard, like this one, to search for a suitable part at low cost.
2. Check Your Undercarriage
For perfect summer performance, your car needs to shed all evidence of the winter, to include any caked-on grime that accumulated during the cold, wet season. Muck that gets kicked onto the undercarriage during winter usually contains salt, which will lead to rust that irreparably injures crucial car systems. Throughout winter and especially during spring, you should clean the underside of your car to prevent such untold damage from developing.
3. Check Your Tire Pressure and Wear
You may remember from high school science that temperature and pressure are highly linked, so as summer brings hotter days, it also brings higher tire pressures that can cause blowouts to interrupt your vacation. To prevent any tire-related catastrophes, you should reserve time in your schedule to check your tire pressure every month. Your owner’s manual should tell you what your proper inflation levels are. If you are regularly adding quite a bit of air to your tires, you may have a small leak that requires a tire patch or replacement.
4. Check Your Battery
There are two ways hot weather kills car batteries fast:
- Heated water evaporates from battery fluid, which causes battery grids to break down.
- Heat increases the battery’s rate of corrosion, which blocks contact between the battery and engine.
Plus, if you live in a place with a long, freezing winter, your battery may already be weakened from months of hard work starting a frozen engine. Before the mercury climbs too high, you should do some quick tests to make sure your battery is in working order.
- Look for cracks or bulges in the battery casing. If you find any, it is time to find a replacement.
- Remove filler caps to check fluid levels in each cell.
- Fill any low cells with distilled water, not tap water.
- Clean the connections with a scouring pad and baking soda.
5. Check Your Air Filter
Cars that see a lot of miles on salt-covered, winterized streets or dirt and gravel roads usually have air filters that are absolutely clogged with debris. A dirty air filter tends to decrease an engine’s mileage, and on summer road trips, you need all the fuel efficiency you can get. Air filters are reasonably priced and relatively easy to remove and replace, so you might as well spare the expense of a new air filter every one or two years on the road.
6. Check Your Air Conditioning
While your car might not need a comfortable cabin environment to function, you probably need air conditioning to survive summer in your car. For reliable functioning, you should run your A/C for about 10 minutes every month to prevent the system from developing leaks or clogs. If your A/C stops cooling the cabin’s temperature, you probably need to add more refrigerant to the system; however, before you do this, you should check the line for any leaks that could be damaging the environment. After patching any cracks and refilling the Freon, you should stay cool throughout the summer heat.