You consider yourself the type of car owner who takes good care of their vehicle. That could sometimes mean keeping your car in the garage throughout the winter to protect it from the ravages of ice and snow. But that is not always an option for everyone and you may have to drive during the winter months. Either way, you likely look forward to the warmer days of summer when driving will be something you can do with relatively more ease.
Nevertheless, while roads are certainly more navigable during the summer, that does not mean the summer weather cannot be hard on your car. Direct sunlight, hot pavements and intense heat can take their toll. The good thing is there are things you can do to prepare your car for the summer heat as you emerge from the long winter. Here are 10 of the most important ones.
1. Extensive Detailing
Perhaps you consider detailing a means of polishing up your car’s visual appeal. It certainly improves its appearance and gives it that dealer-ready look. However, a car detailing steam cleaner can actually achieve more than that, including protecting the vehicle from the heat of summer.
Winter salt and road grime from melted snow can hit the car’s paint and clear coat hard. The polishing, detailing and sealant applicant therefore shields your car paint from the elements. In any case, summer is the best time of the year to perform vehicle detailing since the weather is more conducive to completing this task outside.
2. Check the Tires
Check your tires regularly during the summer. You should do this primarily for two reasons. First, to identify uneven wear, bulges, punctures or weak spots that could necessitate tire replacement. Rising external temperature can exacerbate existing tire problems. The air in your tires expands with the heat while exposure to high temperatures could deteriorate the rubber. Combine that with the hot asphalt and your tires are likely to see accelerated wear and tear in the hot summer months.
The second reason you should check your tires is to confirm that your tire pressure is at the optimal level as per the manufacturer’s recommendation. Doing so not only leads to more comfortable driving but also highlights any punctures, weak spots and wear. This ensures you are less likely to run into problems somewhere down the road.
Underinflated tires wear out faster while worsening your gas mileage. Overinflated tires lead to uneven wear at the tire’s center and will require replacement faster than you otherwise need.
Third, if you have summer tires and winter radials, it is time to switch to your summer tires. If you have year-round tires, have them rotated. This is something a lot of service companies will do for you for free during an oil change.
3. Check the Battery
Battery fluid evaporates more quickly in warmer temperatures. This can lead to corrosion on battery clamps and terminals that in turn interfere with the battery’s fitting. Before you embark on any summer driving, clean up corrosion that may have accumulated during the winter. That gives your battery terminals and clamps the fresh start they need as you enter the summer driving season. Dissolve baking soda in water and use a stiff toothbrush to remove any corrosion.
The typical life of a car battery is anywhere between two and five years. Unfortunately, batteries do not give out much warning signaling their impending failure. Therefore, get your battery checked at the local auto parts store to confirm that it holds charge as required. If it is nearing the end of its useful life, replace it.
4. Keep Belts Secure
The driver hoses and belts fail more often in hot weather. Check for soft, worn spots or indications of cracking. A cracked hose or broken belt can leave you stranded. You can prevent the risk of a breakdown by examining hoses and belts periodically.
Visible signs of bulging, fraying and cracking are some of the first signs that tell you the belts and hoses need to be replaced. Other signs of wear are more subtle and may require an expert eye to take a look.
5. Check the Air Conditioning
You will likely need air conditioning (A/C) in the hot summer months. Chances are you did not use it as much during the winter since you probably did much less driving than you will do over the summer.
Start by running the A/C for a while to confirm if it blows cold. Watch out for strange odors or noises. If you notice anything unusual, your A/C may need cleaning or recharging.
6. Replace the Air Filter
Inspect your air filter. A dirty filter may not have a substantial impact on mileage, but it can reduce the amount of excessive wear on your engine. Ideally, you will change it as you get into the summer months. However, this depends on how much mileage it has covered at that point, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation.
There may be no need to change the filter if it is still fairly new. Note that if you live in or regularly drive through dusty areas or severe weather conditions, you will have to change the filter more regularly than recommended.
7. Clean Your Undercarriage
Driving in the winter implies navigating snow, slush and road treatments. Road treatments include sand, salt and other materials that help prevent cars from skidding and sliding on ice. Whereas treatments are good for traction, they can – together with the slush and snow – take their toll on your vehicle’s underside. They may cause corrosion which can eventually lead to rusting. This can inflict long term damage.
Take the car for a wash and request a power wash for the undercarriage. Alternatively, you could raise the car with a sturdy jack and do the spraying yourself. Your goal is to get rid of residue, so do not use chemicals or soap. Do not forget to clean the bottom of your car doors as dirt, grime and corrosion often get a foothold there.
8. Oil and Fluid Changes
Timing oil changes to take place just before unusually high or unusually low temperatures is vital. If you are coming from an exceptionally cold winter, change your engine oil to one with a higher viscosity as this will deliver better performance for summer driving.
Check your brake, power steering, transmission and coolant fluids as well. The coolant should preferably be a mix of 50% coolant and 50% water. Confirm that fluid levels are at the right levels. Identify any leaks and change the fluids as needed. If it has been two years or more since your radiator was flushed, you should consider getting that done, too.
9. Wiper Blades
If you have been driving the winter, then your windshield wipers have probably had to put in more work than they normally do. The wear and tear they have been subjected may mean they are not clearing your windshield and back window properly anymore.
A wiper blade’s lifespan is anywhere from six months to one year. Still, you should consider getting new wipers for the summer, unless you bought the current ones toward the end of winter. As you check on your wipers, consider inspecting and refilling your wiper fluid reservoir and pump at the same time.
10. Mechanical Tune-Up
Get a tune-up. Do not do this yourself. Instead, take your car to a reputable shop. An experienced professional is armed with the know-how needed to perform a thorough inspection of your vehicle. They would thereafter identify issues that were creeping in even before you stored your car for the winter. That is in addition to the problems that may have emerged while your car remained in extended storage through the winter, or while it battled extreme conditions from the season.
For instance, fuel and other car fluids may have been degraded or your rubber parts may have cracked. An expert mechanic will evaluate your car and perform the requisite mechanical maintenance and repair.
As the summer weather rolls in, your car must be ready to bear the worst conditions of the season. There are many things you can do to better prepare your car for the summer, but the points covered here are some of the most important. After you have applied these, you are now ready to enjoy that summer road trip you have been looking forward to.