Get Your Car Ready For Summer

Although most of the country didn’t have much of a winter it is still important to get your vehicle ready for summer.  Summer can be pretty hard on a vehicle; we drive a lot more in the summer than in the winter.  All the extra driving can put a strain on the cooling system, suspension and tires along with just about everything else.  Here are a few things to do to ensure an enjoyable summer instead of fixing the car all the time.

If you live in a region of the country where it snows you may have studded snow tires on the car.  In many cities there is a date that they must be removed by, usually sometime in April, or you can get a ticket.  There are a couple reasons why studded snow tires should be switched to regular tires once the snow is gone.  First of all is for your safety, studded snow tires do not allow all the rubber of the tire to come into contact with the road, instead only a portion of the tire and the studs do.  This can make a sharp turn or sudden stop dangerous as the rubber that is meant to grip the road can’t do its job.  Other than for safety they are also known to deteriorate roads much more quickly than a regular tire.  There are even places in the USA that have banned studded snow tires all together due to the damage that they cause.  Then there is my personal reason, they are loud.

The air pressure in your tires is very important for multiple reasons.  A properly inflated tire will increase your fuel mileage and keep you safe while driving.  An under or over inflated tire has some serious risks besides worse fuel mileage.  A tire that this inflated incorrectly will not travel down the road the way it was meant to, which can lead to uneven tire wear.  Under inflating a tire or not filling a tire that is low on air pressure can lead to the tire popping off the rim in a sharp turn and resulting in possibly expensive damages.  Over inflating a tire can cause a tire to overheat on hot days or on long trips, this can cause a tire to blow out.  Save yourself a headache and go to the gas station, many offer free air or charge a small fee.  Check the pressure and adjust it to where it should be, just remember if you drove a while to get to the gas station let the car sit a while to allow the tires to cool and provide a more accurate reading.

Since we are talking about air lets get into the air filter.  When is the last time you cleaned or changed it?  The air filter keeps all the dirt out of your engine but if it gets too dirty it isn’t able to allow as much air to flow through resulting is starving the engine of air.  This can lead to the engine running rich which is not a good thing.  When an engine runs rich fuel is wasted because it doesn’t all burn up in combustion.  This also can result in the vehicle running poorly or sluggish and if you run rich for a while a residue will be left on the internal components of the engine like the spark plugs and valves.   So prevent unnecessary repairs and change the air filter, a few bucks could save you hundreds in engine repairs.

This one is easy, check your windshield wiper blades and washer fluid.  During the winter the cold temperatures can cause your wiper blades to crack and not be able to remove water from your windshield effectively.  Also, if you use your wiper blades as an ice scraper (I admit I do it) instead of standing in the cold scraping the windshield the proper way you should just assume to replace them.  The washer fluid level is really easy to check, usually the container is in the engine compartment and has a line that says max fill or minimum level.  If it is below the minimum line or not to the max fill level add some washer fluid.  When you are driving down the highway and a bug splatters all over the windshield its nice to be able to wash it off then look at it for another 2 hour ride.

Checking the belts and hoses in your vehicle may be above some peoples skill level but it should be done, especially before a long road trip.  A cracked or fraying belt is a disaster waiting to happen.  If a belt breaks, especially on modern cars that only have 1 belt, you will lose power steering the alternator and air conditioning.  You may have enough juice in your battery to make it to an off ramp but don’t count on it.  To check the hoses look for bulges, cracks or hoses that look faded.  Water and dirt both attack the hoses on cars.  The hoses typically carry antifreeze through the engine and radiator to keep the engine cool.  Imagine 2 adults and 4 kids in a car, nobody is happy already, and all of a sudden the radiator hose bursts and you are driving through the desert without cell reception.  The engine has overheated and shut down, somehow you were able to coast to the shoulder.  Doesn’t this sound like fun, no air conditioning and a car that will not turn on because it’s too hot!  Maybe a car will drive by in an hour or maybe not, why take the risk.  If your hoses look worn out or a mechanic tells you they need replaced, do it and prevent that situation from ever happening.

Since you checked the belts and hoses now lets move onto checking the antifreeze.  Antifreeze is also called coolant, it is the same thing, it just depends on where you grew up like pop and soda.  The ideal mixture of antifreeze is a 50:50 ratio; meaning equal amounts of antifreeze and water.  If you use straight antifreeze without water you can cause the hoses to deteriorate and the engine block to corrode more quickly than when it is mixed.  If water is used without antifreeze it will boil at 212 degrees Fahrenheit and freeze at 32 degrees, the antifreeze raises the boiling point and lowers the freezing point.  There are inexpensive antifreeze testers available at most auto parts stores.  Before you ever remove the radiator cap make sure it is cool to the touch and then open it slowly.  A long time ago I was in a hurry and opened a warm radiator cap quickly, the extremely hot liquid shot all over me leaving a slight burn on my hand.  Don’t make the same mistake there.

Besides the things we have talked about consider adding a safety kit to your car.  It sounds a little weird but if something goes wrong it is better to have the tools then to have nothing.  Common things to include in a safety kit would be a flashlight, flares, a first aid kit, jumper cables, a small tool kit, water, and non-perishable food.  Even though you may have made sure everything is fine before a long trip remember that cars are machines that we abuse on a daily basis.  You never know when something may go wrong so why not be prepared.  So get out there and have a great summer.

UPDATE:

Our good friends at Sears have told us that there is a coupon code available to save $35 on a purchase of $350 or more in automotive.  Here is a link to their site: Sears Automotive  Enter coupon code CARCARE at checkout to save.