Summertime heat and humidity can be tough on your car’s tires, battery and cooling system, but periodic checks can help you avoid serious trouble.
Your tires require special care during the hot summer months. Excessive heat and long drives can significantly shorten the life of your tires unless you take the necessary precautionary steps. Check for proper inflation on a monthly basis. To ensure a proper reading you should check the tire pressure when the vehicle has been sitting for a while – not during or immediately after it has been driven. You can find the recommended air pressure for your particular vehicle’s tires in the owner’s manual and door plate.
You should also have your tires rotated every 6,000 miles. Many tire dealers offer lifetime rotations with the purchase of a new set of tires. Be sure to take advantage of this service if it’s offered.
You battery and electrical system also take a beating when the mercury rises. Summertime heat can cause battery fluids to evaporate, which can cause damage to the battery’s internal structure and other electrical components, including the voltage regulator, can malfunction as a result of overheating.
Have your electrical system checked by a qualified mechanic to ensure your battery is charging at the proper rate. Most modern automotive batteries are sealed and require no maintenance. If yours is the type that requires “topping off”, be sure to check it frequently, and add the proper amount of distilled water when necessary.
Dirt and corrosion also pose problems for your electrical system. Dirt and debris can act as conductors which can drain your battery, and corrosion on your battery terminals can inhibit the flow of the electrical current.
Your vehicle’s cooling system has to work harder during warmer months. Check your coolant levels regularly and have it changed by your local mechanic yearly. During the coolant change, be sure to ask your mechanic to inspect the thermostat, cooling fan, hoses and belts and perform a pressure check to ensure there are no leaks in the cooling system. When checking the coolant level, remember not to open the radiator or reservoir cap while the engine is hot. Doing so can cause scalding hot coolant to spray from the radiator.
Your radiator should also be cleaned periodically to ensure proper air flow through the fins. In most cases, simply spraying the radiator with a garden hose will remove any dirt and debris that may have accumulated. In some cases, you may need to use a soft brush to remove insects and mud.
Car Care Council executive director Rich White says, “It takes very little time and money to make sure your car runs properly during summer, and although breakdowns happen, they can definitely be minimized by taking a few extra preventive maintenance steps.”