Avoid costly summer breakdowns by popping the hood and checking hoses and belts before you hit the road. These minor replaceable parts are a major reason your engine stays cool while you’re on the road.
There are hoses that connect the radiator to the engine block, pumping coolant back and forth. The fan, which cools the engine, is driven by a belt. If the coolant hoses leak or break or the belts snap, your radiator will overheat.
Inspect the hoses for cracks and good texture. They should feel firm, not soft and pliable. The hoses wear over time from the inside out due to electrochemical degradation (ECD). The chemicals carried by the car’s hoses break them down over time.
An important place to check for hose wear is the clamp area that connects the hose to the radiator and to the engine.
The belts should also be inspected for wear and cracks, as well as for slickness or smoothness. Removing the belt and checking it is a good way to be sure the belt hasn’t split into separate layers. According to Consumer Reports, the chances of belt failure are extremely high after 36,000 miles.
Another simple and economical bit of maintenance is an air filter check. Pep Boys reports that replacing your vehicle’s dirty air filter may improve gas mileage by as much as 10%.
On average, your car’s air filter needs to be changed every 12,000 miles, depending on air and road conditions in your area.
If you live in an area that is extremely dusty, or drive over a lot of dirt or gravel roads, your filter will need changing more often.
How do you know for sure that it’s time to change? Sometimes, it’s not really obvious. Yahoo!Autos says that a slightly dirty filter actually works more efficiently than a new one. A light amount of debris can actually help the filtration process by becoming part of it, and trapping the smaller particles.
Inspect your filter visually, and if you can see that it’s really filthy, change it. If you are about to begin a summer of long car trips, changing the filter is a good idea. Air filters are not expensive, and it’s worth it to be sure you are getting the best mileage from your car.
One other summer car checkup item that is a must-do: windshield wiper inspection.
Many areas are prone to summer downpours, and nothing’s worse than getting caught in one with wiper blades that don’t do the job. It’s not safe for you or other drivers on the road, and it can be especially deadly at night.
Extreme temperatures of winter and summer take their toll on your car’s windshield wipers and lower their effectiveness. If yours leave streaks or don’t work well in a light rain, it’s time to replace them.
NAPA online suggests replacing the entire windshield wiper assembly, not just the rubber portion. Any auto parts store will be able to help you find the right type for your vehicle.
If replacing the wipers yourself, take a look at them before removing the old ones. Go slowly and follow the directions carefully. It can be a little tricky the first time you replace them, but you’ll be happy you did when you’re out in unpredictable summer weather.