Summer is quickly approaching, and while the sunshine is much anticipated, it’s important to get your car ready for the warmer weather. The heat, stop and go traffic and dusty roads all can take a toll on the reliability and performance of your vehicle. Here are a few simple tips to get your vehicle ready for the summer.
The most common cause of summer breakdowns is overheating. Cars have small but efficient radiators and cooling systems and only work properly if they are completely full of coolant. If there are small leaks that go undetected, you can bet that the cooling system will fail when it’s hot outside. Have the system checked thoroughly and change the fluid as per the manufacturer’s recommended service table. You should also keep your eye out for any leaks, and if you notice something is off, have your car checked out. If you decide to check the coolant level yourself, be careful and do not open the system when it is hot. Let it cool down overnight before you open the cap. If it’s low, make sure that you top it off with the correct fluid. There are several different types of coolant these days and some of them are not compatible with each other and can ruin your entire cooling system. In a pinch, clean water is always safe. It is never a bad idea to keep a gallon of fresh water in your trunk just in case you or your car gets thirsty.
Tires are one of the most overlooked service items. An under-inflated, over-inflated, worn down or misaligned tire can be extremely dangerous, particularly in hot summer weather. An under-inflated tire bulges outward and puts pressure on the sidewalls of the tire. With enough heat and pressure, that tire eventually can blow. An over-inflated tire, on the other hand, makes less contact with the road and can lead to hydroplaning in wet conditions.
Tire pressure changes with the rising temperatures — approximately one to two PSI (pounds per square inch) for every 10-degree increase in outside air temperature. Keep a tire pressure gauge in your car to ensure they are set to the correct pressure (usually, there is a sticker on the driver’s door jamb that specifies the level). Make sure you check the spare as well! Lastly, ensure that your tires have adequate tread. It helps to turn the steering wheel all the way to one side and look at the tread depth. There are wear indicators built into every tire, which are small rubber lines that run across the tread section and are located between the tread blocks. When the tread is at the same depth as the wear indicators, the tires will need to be replaced.
Just like anything else in your car, the A/C system requires routine service and a marginally operating system will fail in hot weather. The condition and level of the refrigerant are the leading factors in determining your A/C’s ability to cool. As the A/C refrigerant deteriorates, or leaks out, the system is less efficient.
One trick in determining if your A/C system is low on refrigerant is to start your vehicle, put the A/C on “High” and listen for the compressor clutch to come on. The compressor clutch will make one loud click sound as it engages, and stay on steadily. If the compressor clutch is cycling or clicking every few seconds, then your system is low on charge and should be serviced. Most automotive repair shops have the ability to recharge the system — the service will usually cost less than $200 and can save you thousands of dollars in the long run. When you bring your car in, make sure the repair shop puts a tracer dye in the system when they perform the re-charge. This will ensure an accurate diagnostic of any potential leak if the system begins to deteriorate. The typical interval for most vehicles to have the A/C serviced is every 4 to 5 years, and if you keep it serviced, your A/C system will provide you with consistently cool performance.
These are just a few simple things you can do to get your vehicle ready for the summer.