So since summer is already here and blaring it’s heat, I think it’s the perfect time to give you all some summer driving tips! These tips are really handy to keep your car running in tip-top shape through the heat of summer and into the fall.
- First, make sure that the radiator core is in good shape. In areas of the country where roads are salted, the core of the radiator can literally rot away. Even though the radiator may not be leaking now, it will be leaking soon. That means bad overheating for your radiator! And when your engine isn‘t cooled properly, it can easily blow a head gasket, or crack or twist/distort a tube head. In technical language (used by experts-not me), your engine is going to “melt.” And no, the melting has nothing to do with the summer heat, just the opposite actually. The radiator core melts because of the salted roads and the leaking I talked about earlier.What is the radiator core, and how would you know if it‘s rotten? The core is the little tubes through which the coolant flows so that it can get cooled by the air flowing past it.But, it takes some experience to recognize a radiator that‘s rotten, so we recommend that you ask your mechanic to check it out. He‘ll look at it and touch it to see how hard it is to get it to crumble. Unfortunately this is a destructive test — if it‘s rotten it will fall apart. But better it happens in the shop than on the highway, right?
- While driving for summer road trips and fun adventures, please make sure that you have the correct tire pressure in all five tires. (In case you never noticed, there’s a tire in the trunk.) There’s plenty of debate about what constitutes “correct” tire pressure, but we suggest going by what your vehicle manufacturer recommends, which should be listed on the side of the driver’s door, on the glove compartment door, or in the owner’s manual. Don’t confuse the “maximum tire pressure” listed on the sidewall of the tire with the “recommended tire pressure” provided by the manufacturer of the vehicle. While it’s okay to inflate your tires to the “maximum tire pressure” number, “Recommended tire pressure” is the ideal pressure you want in your tires. If you’re carrying an extra heavy load, follow the recommendation for “heavy loads,” which is usually listed in the manual that came with your mother-in-law. (Or your car’s owner manual.)Ready for some more high-school physics? Remember that tire pressure will increase as the outside air temperature rises. In fact, tire pressure will go up approximately one pound for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. So, tires that were at 35 PSI back in January when you drove to the slopes could easily be closing in on 45 pounds on a hot July day at the beach. Under some conditions that increase in pressure is enough to blow the tire! If nothing else, a tire that’s overinflated will wear prematurely and will cause the car to handle and brake poorly. Don’t count on your electronic tire pressure monitoring system to alert you to an overinflated tire, either — the warning light will only get illuminated when a tire’s air pressure is too low, not too high.By the way, while you’re out there checking the air in those tires, toss that stupid pencil-style pressure gauge in the dumpster where it belongs and get an accurate, dial-type gauge.
You also have to remember friction. As you drive, there’s friction between the tires and the road. Friction means heat — and heat means an increase in tire pressure. So, here’s what to do about your car’s tire pressure: Check the tire pressure before you start driving. If the recommended pressure is 35 PSI, for example, it means 35 PSI before you start driving. If you check the tire pressure when you stop to get gas two hours later, it will be much higher than 35 PSI. If you check it at this point—after you’ve been driving–there is no way to know what the correct tire pressure should be. You’ll be tempted to let air out of the tires, because the tire pressure will be greater than 35 PSI. Do not do this, because the tires will be under inflated.
- Make sure you stay on top of all your oil changes. This is particularly important in the summer, since a hot engine needs all the lubrication it can get, and at high temperatures your engine’s oil is really getting put through the wringer. Our current recommendation is to change your oil every 5,000 miles — though that number may decrease dramatically if you’re like me and taking summer trips every few days!A word about hauling big loads in the summer: Most car manufacturers will recommend 5W30 oil year-round. However, your owner’s manual may have a recommendation for what’s called “severe duty,” such as pulling a trailer. In this case, you might want to switch over to a higher viscosity oil. Why? Well, under hot operating conditions, a thicker oil will thin out less quickly, making sure your engine stays well lubricated when it needs it most. If you do operate your vehicle under “severe duty” conditions, you should also consider changing the oil more frequently, because you’re working it that much harder.
- Ah, Summer road trips….with or without AC, they still put us through hell. Let’s face it: when it’s 95 degrees and humid outside, and you’ve been stuck in the car for six hours with three rowdy kids, one slobbering canine and a grouchy in-law, having working AC might just be the only thing that keeps you from diving out the window and running headlong into the grille of an oncoming Mac truck.There’s nothing to really maintain, per se, on your air conditioning system, but there are a few important things that are worth checking. Here’s why it matters: Failing AC can affect more than just the cool breeze blowing in your face. On most modern cars, the serpentine belt that helps power the air conditioner also provides power to other things, too—including the water pump that keeps your engine from overheating, for example. If your AC fails, your summer safari could come to a screeching halt faster than you can say, “Pass the Right Guard!”First, check to see that you’re getting some cold air coming out of the vents when you turn on your AC. Next, consider asking your mechanic to check to make sure that the AC system is fully charged with refrigerant. Finally, ask your mechanic to check for a noisy compressor, and to listen for the telltale sounds of a noisy or worn AC clutch.
Okay folks, that’s really it for the tips…however here is a list that you can bring to your mechanic:
Make sure your mechanic knows of your concerns for your car that way they can better address them in the long run. Also, by sticking to this list, it is alot easier for your mechanic to understand your car and see what’s wrong with it before it breaks down.
- Check out the entire cooling system: radiator, coolant, belts and hoses, cooling fans, heater core and water pump.
- Tires: check tread depth, uneven wear and tire pressure, and get a real spare.
- The front end: check ball joints, tie rod ends and steering components.
- Check the suspension, including struts and shocks both front and rear.
- Change the oil. Look for leaks.
- Check the air conditioning system: refrigerant level, compressor clutch and belts.
- Check the tranny. Are you close to the recommended service interval? Is the fluid nice and clean? Any leaks?
- Check the brakes! We know you’re eager to get to your destination. But you want to stop when you get there, right?
Alright, have a SAFE rest of the summer folks! And be sure to check out our blog updates! They will be less few and far between. I promise
-The Car Girl.