Summer Car Maintenance: Your Car Needs You Now More Than Ever

Summer car maintenance that you can do

You don’t have to leave all the fun to the experts. If you’re a DIY-er, you can do this stuff on your own:

1. CHECK YOUR OIL

Oil helps keep your engine lubricated, which reduces friction (and heat buildup) under your hood. Checking your oil is super easy. And if you’re low, adding more oil is easy too. Just don’t confuse adding oil with changing oil. You should still get an oil change every 5,000 miles or so.

2. HECK, CHECK ALL YOUR FLUIDS

If you remember back to high school chemistry, heat causes liquid to evaporate. And all those fluids in your car have very important jobs to do, like lubricating and cooling. Topping off your fluids at the start of the summer can help you avoid overheating. If you’re unsure about which fluids to use or how much to add, ask your mechanic for help.

3. INSPECT YOUR TIRES

As outside temperatures fluctuate, so does tire pressure — cold temperatures cause tire pressure to drop while hot temperatures cause it to increase. So, first things first: make sure your tires are properly inflated. You can usually find your tire’s recommended PSI (pounds per square inch) in your owner’s manual or on your driver’s side door. To ensure an accurate measurement, always make sure you haven’t driven for at least 3 hours.

4. WASH AND WAX YOUR CAR

Keeping your car shiny and clean may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it can actually save you from major costs down the road. Dirt and dust scratch away at your car’s top coat … you know, the one that protects the paint from fading and peeling in the sun. Paint damage is more than just unsightly, though — it can actually be damaging to your car’s structure. When paint peels away, it leaves your car susceptible to rust.

Summer car maintenance that the mechanic should do

Unless you know your way around an engine, it’s best to leave some of the more technical stuff to the experts. When you make your appointment, be prepared with a specific summer checklist:

1. GET A RADIATOR CHECKUP

A winter of salted roads can eat away at your radiator’s core, which can lead to leakage and, ultimately, an overheated engine. The mechanic can check for damage and clogs (a clogged radiator makes it harder for coolant to pass through) and flush your cooling system if necessary.

2. CHECK YOUR BATTERY

If you live in cold weather, you’ve probably experienced a dead battery more than once. But did you know the heat can pack a pretty mean punch too? Heat causes battery fluid to evaporate, which can lead to corrosion. If it’s been a while since you bought your last battery, ask the mechanic to give it a look.

Be prepared

If you do experience an overheated engine or a blown tire, being prepared can help you get through these situations a lot more smoothly. Take advantage of that big old storage space in your trunk to carry these items:

  • Extra coolant (aka antifreeze): a 50/50 mix of coolant and water is your car’s preferred summer cocktail
  • Extra water: to mix with the coolant (and to drink if you get stranded for a while)
  • A spare tire: even better if it’s full sized
  • An emergency kit
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