For most of us, summertime means travel. You might be planning a summer vacation, traveling on the weekend to a summer cabin, or just spending your evenings out enjoying the hot summer nights. Much is said every year about winter driving conditions and how cold weather affects a vehicle’s performance. Summer heat can also wreak havoc on a vehicle and its daily operation. The warm weather, hot roads, extended trips, and even humidity can create a hostile environment for your car. Cars need protection from the hot weather to ensure that they run optimally and don’t end up with serious problems.
Checking your tire pressure is one of the most important things you can do year round, but especially during the summer months. If your tires are improperly inflated, the risk of failure is even greater. Checking your tire pressure doesn’t always require a professional. A simple tire air pressure gauge, available at most auto parts stores, is good enough for the job.
Smaller compact and mid-size sedans typically have PSI (pounds per square inch) levels between 30 and 40 PSI.
Larger vehicles with larger tires, including bigger sedans, usually have higher pressure, around 40-45 PSI. The recommended PSI for tires is usually located on a sticker on the driver’s side door jam, in your owner’s manual.
Tires should all be inflated to the same PSI for safety, proper vehicle function, comfort, and fuel efficiency. It is easy to prevent hazardous situations by checking your tires once a month and replacing them before they become dangerously worn.
Temperature change can affect the air pressure of your tires, so as the weather warms up, make sure they stay properly inflated. Tires should always be inflated to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
Summer heat can negatively impact your battery’s function. Vibration and heat are a battery’s worst enemy. While there is not much you can do about naturally occurring heat, you can take the steps to make sure your battery is securely mounted, allowing as little vibration of the battery as possible.
If not protected properly, the suspended plates in the battery become loose and rub against each other. This results in a sudden high discharge current that can lead to excessive heat buildup and thermal runaway. Thermal runaway is caused by a battery charging current or other process which produces more internal heat than the battery can use. Incorrect manufacturing as well as excessive shock and vibration are the most common contributors to this failure.
It’s always a good idea to carry a set of jumper cables or a battery jump box so you don’t get stranded. Heat causes battery fluid to evaporate, thus damaging the internal structure of the battery. Also, it’s important to check your car’s battery terminals for corrosion.
When you have your car in for regular service, be sure the technician checks the charging output of the battery.
A hot engine needs all the lubrication it can get, so keeping on top of engine oil changes is especially important during the summer months. Though some people believe it’s necessary to use a thicker grade of oil for summer, and a thinner oil for winter, this isn’t the case with modern motor oils.
The most important thing is to change the oil at regular intervals and use the oil weight recommended in the owner’s manual for your car. With the extra miles many people put on their vehicles during summer road trips, this may mean more frequent changes.
Low coolant levels can greatly damage your engine. Worn hoses or a damaged radiator can allow coolant to leak and engine temperatures to rise. Your vehicle’s cooling system’s job is to protect the engine from overheating. Over time your engine’s coolant can become contaminated causing depletion of its protective additive.
Coolant eventually breaks down like any other engine fluid. Just as motor oil has vital engine performance additives, your coolant has components that prevent boiling, freezing and corrosion. By the time these additives slowly break down, contaminants and debris can begin to build up on your radiator, affecting its performance. This is why flushing and replacement of your vehicle’s coolant is highly recommended.
******Keep an especially close eye on your vehicle’s temperature gauge during summer months.
To keep yourself and your passengers cool, have your air conditioning serviced regularly. Replacing the cabin air filter can also improve cooling and prolong the life of your A/C system. A/C work can be very costly, so catching a problem early can save hundreds of dollars in repairs down the road. Examine belts, check for any leaks, and clean out any clogged vents that may be preventing the system from functioning properly.
Before you find yourself out and about enjoying the season, think about your vehicle and some seasonal maintenance. Prepare your car for a safe and enjoyable summer of driving. By inspecting your vehicle’s cooling system, tires, brakes, and air conditioning, you can expect a more pleasant, safe, and reliable warm weather driving experience