Before hitting the road this summer, you can take several simple precautions to keep your family safe and save money at the pump.
Extreme heat and long drives can be tough on cars. Cracked hoses, leaky radiators, under inflated tires and dirty filters can significantly lower your fuel efficiency, or worse, lead to a total breakdown.
Check the following vehicle components periodically during summer to help avoid breakdowns and car problems:
Tires – Tire pressure changes with rising temperatures, under-or over-inflated tires put you at risk for accidents, blowouts and flats. Check your owner’s manual to make sure your tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications. This will help you save money at the pump, too. Properly inflated tires increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency by up to three percent.
Oil – Cars are more likely to overheat in the summer. But it’s not just the hot temperatures that cause overheating. Heavy driving can also cause your engine to overheat. Prepare for hot days and long trips by giving your car a thorough systems check. An oil check is a good place to start. If the oil is a dark color or there’s a lot of dirt and grime present, it’s time for an oil change and filter replacement. Check your owner’s manual for guidance.
Fluid levels – Fill coolant, transmission, differential, power steering and brake fluids to suggested levels. It’s not a bad idea to look under your car for any fluids that may be dripping. If you see any, there’s a good chance you have a leak. A reputable service station will tell you what’s wrong and give you an estimate for repair.
Hoses and belts – Check hoses for cracks, leaks, and loose connections. Hoses should be firm, especially where they are most vulnerable near clamps that connect to the radiator or engine. Soft or flexible hoses often indicate a problem. Likewise, check belts for cracks and damage. A smooth or slick belt may be a sign of excessive wear. Material should not be separated into different layers. Talk to your mechanic about replacing them when necessary or consult your owner’s manual for instructions on how to do it.
Brakes – If your brake pedal is soft and mushy, hard and resistant, or produces loud and constant scraping noises, it’s likely time for new brakes. Fixing brakes in a timely manner can prevent more costly problems in the future.
Air conditioner – Air conditioning units should be serviced every three years or as needed. The most common cause of a malfunctioning air conditioning unit is a low level of refrigerant. Have a professional check your A/C unit for leaks and evaluate refrigerant levels.
Air filter – Inspect your filter. If it’s filthy, replace it. A dirty or blocked air filter is hard on the engine and lowers fuel efficiency. Drivers who do a lot of driving on dirt or gravel roads may need to replace them even more frequently.
Windshield wipers – If wipers are cracked, torn, or leave streaks, replace them to maximize your visibility during severe summer storms.
Give your car a thorough cleaning, inside and out, including the underside of your car where accumulated grime and dirt can make your engine and transmission unnecessarily hot. Cleaning the inside of your car will give you a more comfortable ride and potentially lighten your load by eliminating unnecessary items.
Keep in mind, it’s not a bad idea to take your car to a mechanic for a quick tune-up and maintenance check before a long road trip. That way, you can enjoy your journey from the safety of your car, instead of the side of the road.