Summer heat isn’t only hard on people, it’s tough on cars.
And with some COVID-19 travel restrictions starting to ease in many areas of the country, the chances are good there may be a road trip in your future. Even if you stay closer to home, some simple precautions will help keep your family safe and save you money at the gas pump.
Checking some vehicle components periodically over the summer is the best way to avoid breakdowns. Cracked hoses, leaky radiators, under-inflated tires and dirty filters can significantly lower your fuel efficiency or lead to a vehicle breakdown. Help your car beat the heat with these 10 tips:
- Oil change - Cars are more likely to overheat in the summer. It’s not just the increase in temperatures, a lot of driving can cause your engine to overheat. The best way to prepare for hot days is to check your oil. If there’s lots of dirt present and it looks dark in colour, it’s time for a new filter and oil change. Consult your owner’s manual. Remember, a proper oil change schedule will prolong the life of your car.
- Tires - Rising temperatures affect tire pressure. If your tires are under or over inflated, you have a greater risk of blowouts, flats, and accidents. Ensure your tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications. There’s an added bonus too – properly inflated tires increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency by up to three per cent! Tires should be inspected to make sure they have the appropriate amount of tread and to look for leaks or uneven wear.
- Battery - Summer heat accelerates the rate of fluid loss and oxidation of battery components, which can leave you stranded without warning. Heat is the No. 1 cause of battery failure and reduced battery life.
READ MORE: How summer heat zaps your car battery
- Fluid levels – Fill coolant, transmission, differential, power steering and brake fluids to suggested levels. It’s not a bad idea to check under your car for any fluids that may be dripping. If you see evidence of that, there’s a good chance you have a need to head to a garage for a repair.
- Brakes – Are your brakes soft and mushy, hard, and resistant, or producing loud and constant scraping noises? Then it’s likely time for new brakes. It’s a good idea to get a thorough inspection of your brakes, pads and rotors, and a brake fluid flush.
- Hoses and belts – Extreme weather is hard on your car’s belts and hoses, so have them checked for fraying, stretching, and cracking. Hoses should be firm, especially where they are most vulnerable near clamps that connect to the radiator or engine. 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.
- Air conditioner – A/C units should be serviced every three years or as needed. The most common cause of a malfunction is a low level of refrigerant. Have a professional check your A/C unit ahead of time so when you really need it on hot days it’s ready to go.
- Air filter – Inspect your filter. If it’s filthy, replace it. A dirty or blocked air filter is hard on the engine and reduces fuel efficiency. If you drive on a lot of dirt or gravel roads they may need to be replaced even more frequently.
- Windshield wipers – Changing temperatures can do a number on rubber wiper blades, and nobody wants to get caught in a downpour with failing wiper blades. If wipers are cracked, torn, or leave streaks, replace them to maximize your visibility during severe summer storms. Consider using a summer windshield wiper fluid that helps break down bugs.
- Deep clean – Give your wheels a thorough cleaning - both inside and out - including underneath where accumulated grime and dirt can make your engine and transmission unnecessarily hot. Additionally, make sure pollen and other particles aren’t covering your headlights. If they seem dim or weak, immediately change them to ensure you’re able to see clearly at night, in the rain or other poor conditions.