So your summer travel plans are set and you have all of your road trip essentials packed. But how did you prepare your car for this summer? Chances are your vehicle's most critical parts have suffered through South Dakota's harshest weather and they need to be inspected. Without preventative car maintenance this summer's hot temperatures could wreak havoc on your vehicle. While it's a good idea to consult your owner's manual for a routine auto maintenance schedule, Vern Eide Motorcars has created a list of summer car care tips to check out before your next road trip.
Since your vehicle's belts and hoses are both made of rubber it makes them vulnerable to weather elements. Get under the hood and check all belts for splits or cracks and make sure they aren't too loose. If you notice any major signs of wear or you hear a squealing noise while the car is running get the belt replaced immediately. The same goes for hoses. Look for cracked or brittle-looking rubber, check for leaks, and tighten any metal clamps that appear to be loose. The dog days of summer will only make these issues worse if they go unfixed.
Nothing reduces the charge of a car battery quite like freezing cold temperatures. Next to the belts and hoses, your battery probably experiences the most wear and tear during those cold winter months. Avoid having to jumpstart your car this summer by cleaning and testing your car battery. To clean your battery, remove the cables from the terminal post (black first and reattach last) and wipe away any corrosion. This will create a better connection between the cable and terminal, and improve the battery's performance. To test the charge, simply connect a volt tester to your car battery (black wire to negative post, red wire to positive post) and if the reading is between 9 and 10 you need a new battery.
A flat tire does not fit into your summer travel plans. Plus, that spare tire is really hard to reach under all of that luggage. Driving on extremely hot surfaces with under-inflated tires can lead to a blowout so make sure all tires are properly inflated to the owner's manual specifications (including the spare) before you get on the road. Look over each tire carefully to ensure they still have plenty of tread and check for any splits or cracks in the sidewalls.
The fall and winter months produce a lot of leaves, dirt, and gunk that can clog your air filter. As part of your summer car maintenance it's good practice to get an air filter replacement or at the very least clean your current filter. A lot of today's vehicles also have cabin filtration systems and pollen filters so be sure to check these as well. While you may be able to replace these filters on your own, others could be more difficult and require a factory-trained technician.
The leading cause of vehicle breakdowns during the summer months is overheating. That's why the coolant system is so vital to your engine's performance when the temperatures start heating up. First, inspect the radiator to make sure there are no cracks or leaks. If you notice either of these issues get your vehicle to a certified technician right away. Second, look over the radiator hose for any leaks and confirm that it's still tightened securely to the radiator. Lastly, check the coolant level and top it off, if necessary.
Stepping into a hot car can be miserable. Now imagine you're in the middle of your summer road trip and the air conditioning stops working. If your A/C isn't blowing as cool as it used to, you may need to have the system recharged. First, check to make sure there's enough refrigerant in the system. If it appears to be low there's probably a leak and you should have a certified technician take a look.
Just like your tires and battery, the winter months can be hard on your vehicle's brakes, too. The slick surfaces cause you to use them more often, while things like sand and salt can eat away at the parts of your braking system. As we dip our toe into the summer months, if you notice a vibration in your steering wheel when braking; if the brake pedal feels spongy underneath your foot; or if you hear a screeching (or grinding) noise while coming to a stop, it might be time for a new brakes.
Before any long road trip—let alone during the summer—you should check all fluid levels, including the motor oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and power-steering fluid. Not only do these fluids lubricate the vehicle's most important components, but they also act as a coolant. This cooling effect is reduced when fluid levels are low which increases the likelihood of your vehicle overheating. Keep fluids at their proper levels by consulting the owner's manual or a certified technician.
South Dakota weather can take its toll on a set of windshield wipers. That's why you should make sure you aren't experiencing any streaks or wiper blade chatter before you hit the open road. A clear line of sight is crucial to safe driving and that last thing you need is to get caught in a rainstorm with limited visibility.
Even with the summer car care tips listed above, vehicle breakdowns can still happen. The best thing you can do is be prepared. Always pack a roadside emergency kit for long road trips and stay on top of preventative car maintenance. These things will greatly reduce your odds of a vehicle breakdown and the added peace of mind will help you enjoy your summer travels.