Summertime is the perfect time to roll the windows down, turn the music up, and cruise through your local streets and soak up the sun. But if your car isn’t maintained throughout those warmer months, you may not be going anywhere in the fall. Here are a few simple things you must take care of to keep your car running in top shape.
1. Check the Fluid Levels
Since it’s warmer, this is a great time to pop the hood and make sure all of your levels are where they should be. This includes the normal windshield wiper and brake fluid, but the biggest one this time of year is your coolant. The number one cause of breakdowns in the summer is cars that overheat, so if you want to make sure you stay afloat, check your coolant and refill if necessary.
2. Test Your Battery Power
One of the most frustrating (yet consistent) times that your car won’t start is when the battery decides to die. You can use a virtual battery tester to estimate the time when it will fail on you, but you should also plan on taking it to a nearby shop in order to have it tested in person.
Most people are not aware of the fact that heat actually drains a car battery quicker due to the acceleration of fluid loss and oxidation on the battery itself, so if you’ve noticed that your car has had trouble starting as of late, you might want to get it replaced sooner rather than later. With temperatures reaching into the hundreds in some places, the last thing you want is to be stuck outside in a parking lot with a dead battery.
3. Inspect the Brakes
This is an easy-yet-important job to have done, and it’s never more convenient than when it’s warm out. If your brakes are beginning to fail, you may have noticed a squeaking or grinding sound whenever you press down on the pedal; if so, the pads may need to be replaced. If your car is older, it might also be that the brakes itself are going bad, but the only way to know for sure is to inspect them yourself or have a mechanic check them out.
4. Verify the Alignment
Even though most modern cars are designed to curve a little bit to the right side of the road to minimize head-on collisions in case the driver falls asleep at the wheel, but anything more than a gradual turn should be a cause for concern. If the car pulls to the left or the right too much, it could be because of an uneven amount of air in the tires or the alignment could be off. A simple check at your local mechanic should be enough to tell you one way or the other; failure to get it fixed could result in uneven tread on your tires and lower gas efficiency.
5. Change the Oil (and Filter)
Your oil acts as a natural lubricant for every part of the car itself. If it’s not changed regularly, your car can experience undue wear and tear and begin to fall apart before it should. On top of this, intense weather conditions from winter and spring could put added strain on the oil and its filter, so it’s a good idea to get both of those checked or replaced when the mileage sticker indicates. The filter is especially important: it acts as the last line of defense for keeping debris and gunk out of your engine.
6. Monitor Tire Pressure
Lower temperatures will cause the tire pressure to actually decrease as the molecules contract, so you should experience a “low pressure” warning more often. On the other hand, an increase in temperature makes the pressure expand, so your tires should have less of a problem. This can even change day by day as the temperatures go up and down. Regardless, it’s a good idea to manually check your tire pressure rather than waiting for an indicator light, as low pressure can create uneven wear on your tires and possibly even result in a blowout. It’s simple to do and can save you time spent on the side of the road.