When the New Year bell tolls, most all of us subject ourselves to a somewhat strict set of diet and exercise standards to turn our bodies into the proverbial “well-oiled machine” for the upcoming season of fun in the sun…the surf…the sand…and the heat! We all know what the heat will do to our bodies, but do you know what it will do to your vehicle if not properly cared for?
It can cause your vehicle to become a major hazard for you, your family, your pet, and others on the road around you if you don’t take the time to exercise your responsibilities in vehicle care, maintenance, and emergency preparedness.
You have probably seen a movie or two where a character spends time caressing and talking to his (or her) vehicle. Well, if you give your vehicle a little “love,” it WILL “love” you back – especially by keeping you and your loved ones safer and by making your wallet a little heavier.
In the next few minutes, we’ll go over the areas of your vehicle that likely need attention, how to fix them and tricks to tips to ensure your vehicle runs its best all summer long. It is highly recommended that you always follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations for each of these categories and seek professionals for service assistance, as you deem necessary.
Lube it Up
Let’s start with the oil. This is not a difficult task, but it seems to be one of the most dreaded – this very well could be due to the frequency necessary or the expense.
The oil in your vehicle works kind of like the blood in your body. It carries important components (lubrication in this case) to various internal parts allowing the motor to run smoothly and coolly. When your engine uses the motor oil for a time, the oil tends to get dirty and gummy, and it needs a good cleaning (changing). Oftentimes, if people are driving newer cars, they think that the oil doesn’t need to be changed as frequently. This isn’t the case. In new cars, tiny pieces of metal or filaments from production can build up and changing the oil on a regular basis can help ensure that these fragments don’t cause issues.
Help it Breathe
The next area you should deem unfit is the air filter. Take a good long look at it, especially in bright sunlight. Is it dirty, gummy, or black – better yet, would you want to breathe in the stuff that has been caught in that filter? Neither does your car!
Some manufacturers recommend you change your air filter after so many miles whether it is needed or not. Air filters cost anywhere from about $20 and up. Doing this simple change can make a big difference in how your vehicle runs and in fuel savings. K&N offers washable filters that will last the lifetime of your car, all you need to do is periodically wash them out. Oftentimes while getting an oil change, this service is included. Just be sure to point out to the service team that you have a K&N washable filter, so they don’t accidentally toss it out!!!
Moving on to the battery, the summer heat is very harsh to this essential element. Have your battery checked by a professional. This is a free service at most auto parts stores.
If your battery is not maintenance free, check the cells often and refill with distilled water as needed. The heat can cause the liquid to dissipate quickly.
Clean the terminals (a.k.a. battery posts) well, removing any corrosion. Doing this exercise will strengthen your physical inspection of the cables for cuts, breaks, etc. and ensure the proper connection needed is maintained.
Cool her Down
Much like you get overheated during the summer, so can the engine in your car! The engine cooling system is the next system that needs a checkup. This should include the radiator, the overflow, hoses, caps, seals, and belts.
You need to look for leaks, cracks, frayed edges, and missing pieces. Check the water to antifreeze (coolant) ratio to ensure a proper balance – generally 50/50.
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER tamper with the radiator cap or add water if your vehicle is hot, overheating, or boiling out. Allow the vehicle to cool completely before adding water or coolant to the overflow container.
Check her Treads
The next exercise is going to concern the tires of your vehicle. Most people buy new shoes a couple of times a year for the new seasons, but often don’t think twice about the treads on their cars that they drive daily. The inspection and rotation of your tires is crucial to ensure they wear evenly and last as long as possible.
The general recommendation for tire rotation by professionals is every six thousand miles (6,000); however, you should always refer back to your owner’s manual for the recommendations for your vehicle. In case you’re wondering why you’d want to rotate the tires, it’s to ensure even wear on the tires. Uneven wear can occur if the car is out of alignment, even just a small amount.
Cracks, uneven wear, and steel cables showing are all very dangerous issues that show your vehicle needs immediate attention. Tires that have any of these issues are more likely to have a blowout, especially when subjected to hot pavement. Tires with uneven wear and cables showing are also more likely to hydroplane (ride on top of the water causing decreased steering and braking capability.
Now, on to you keeping your vision in good health. Well, in your vehicle this means maintaining your windshield wipers and keeping your windows and mirrors in good condition and streak free. (How to Clean Windshield Wiper Blades)
It never fails – it starts pouring rain – you turn on your wipers – and you get nothing but giant streaks of water from the broken squeegee slivers. What about those killer glares from the bright sun and even brighter headlights that cause you to run off the road or quickly slam on the brakes?
Irritated, to say the least, you end up having to make an unscheduled pit stop at an auto parts center to either buy new wipers or window cleaner. It will be so much easier to take care of it as routine maintenance.
Next, clean out your vehicle. Remove all trash and unnecessary items, especially half full drink and water bottles, pressurized cans and bottles, and disposable lighters. All of these items can explode. As for the half-full drinks, if you think they will be good to have in the event of an emergency, you may want to rethink that – An exponential amount of germs and all the discomforts (and possibly death) is what you will get from those.
Heat is a major contributor to damage and safety concerns when it comes to your vehicle. The damage heat can cause includes the breakdown and failure of all rubber and plastic components of the vehicle, but it also includes the appearance of the vehicle. The rising temperatures outside cause great concern because they can lead to major burns, breathing issues, bacterial contamination, and even death. Your vehicle becomes a virtual stove and oven.
When you close your vehicle’s doors and windows for just a few minutes the temperature inside will rise rapidly. For example, if the temperature outside registers 90 degrees, the interior of a car can reach nearly 110 degrees in just 10 minutes.
In an hour, the interior temperature reaches about 135 degrees. But, did you know that it doesn’t have to be sunny and 90 degrees to turn the interior of your vehicle into a serious hazard or death trap? A cloudy, rainy, or slightly cooler day can create these hazards as well.
- Teach children to not touch vehicles. Also, teach them to not play in or around vehicles.
- Pay attention when you open your car door. Did you get hit in the face with a wave of rolling heat like opening an oven door? If so, let your vehicle air out a few minutes before you get in and shut the door.
- Check the interior to ensure it isn’t hot enough to cause burns – even if you have cloth interior! The hot interior will burn your pet’s paws before it is hot enough to burn your hand! Put a blanket or non-skid pad down before allowing your pet in the vehicle.
- Check the temperature of the Child Safety Seat. Put a light colored blanket or towel over the car seat when you get out of the vehicle to prevent the safety seat from getting too hot.
- Always be leery of the steering wheel, dashboard, door console buttons (for windows and door locks), and the seat belt buckle. All of these items tend to get extremely hot very quickly, causing burns often.
- Open your windows as soon as possible to help release the hot air from the vehicle.
If using a garage isn’t an option to protect your vehicle from physical damage, use a car cover. Washing and waxing will also provide some protection for your vehicle. It is recommended that you rinse your car often to remove debris, road salt, grease, etc.
Washing and waxing should take place in the shade if at all possible. You should never use household detergents on your vehicle – commercial car wash and wax only – both of which are specially formulated for a vehicle’s exterior.
You should always have an emergency box in your vehicle, but the items it houses tend to vary somewhat by region and season.
Summer Emergency Box
1 – 50/50 Coolant (Water and Antifreeze) Mix
2 – Quarts Oil
Disposable Camera – in the event of an accident (or something really cool)
1 – Flashlight with Batteries
Extra Batteries (flashlight, camera, etc.)
1 – Gallon Sealed Drinking Water
Old Carpet or Doormat – in case you have to kneel in poor weather
Emergency Cell Phone Charger
Duct Tape or Electrical Tape (Oh, didn’t you know? These fix “everything.”)
One more thing – According to the Car Care Council and the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save up to 40% on fuel costs by simply fixing a problem – especially a faulty oxygen sensor.
How to Save on Fuel
To save even more on fuel, look for the best price in your area by visiting one of the sites below:
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Kurhan