Since summer is almost in full swing here's ten tips to get your car ready for summer. There's more you can do but these ten tips are more than enough to insure you have a worry free summer.
1. Have the A/C Serviced - Depending on where you live, chances are you haven't used your air-conditioning system much since last summer. Over time, the A/C can slowly leak refrigerant, causing the compressor to operate for longer periods than usual and put added strain on your engine. If your A/C doesn't feel as cool as it once did, it will pay to have it checked out by a qualified mechanic. A reputable shop can pressure-test the system and properly diagnose any issues before the first heat wave hits.
2. Replace Coolant - When most of us think of maintenance, we think of changing the oil and rotating the tires. However, keeping fresh antifreeze in the coolant system is just as important. If you can't remember the last time your coolant was replaced, it's probably time for a system flush and fill. Old coolant can develop a slight electric charge that can cause premature corrosion inside your engine and radiator. If left unchecked, that can lead to leaks, and it won't be long before you're stuck on the side of the road with an expensive repair bill.
3. Check the Battery - On average, a battery will last anywhere from two to three years depending on build quality. If the battery in your car is older than that, it's only a matter of time before it leaves you stranded. As a battery ages, it keeps less and less of a charge, causing the alternator to work harder. If your battery is still fairly new, take the time to give it a close look. Check for any corrosion or leaks, and clean up anything you see. Few things are more corrosive or bad for the environment than a leaking battery, so if you see a problem be sure to have a qualified shop examine and /or replace it, as well as dispose of the old one properly.
4. Give Tires a Once-Over - As road temperatures increase, so will the pressure in your tires. Take the time to give them a close inspection. Look for any dry rot, large bumps in the sidewalls or uneven wear — these indicate a serious problem. Once things get warm, any small problem can develop into a flat in a hurry. That can put you, your passengers and those on the road around you in a dangerous situation. It may hurt to spend the money on a new tire now, but it's better than having to pay the body shop (or hospital) for damage sustained after a blowout on the highway.
5. Replace Windshield Wipers - In many parts of the country, summer means heavy thunderstorms. Most experts recommend replacing your windshield wipers every six months, regardless of how they look. Windshield wipers experience the absolute worst that the elements can throw at them — including plenty of exposure to ultraviolet rays. Those rays degrade rubber quickly, making your wipers worthless. Considering how inexpensive quality replacement blades can be, it makes sense to go ahead and make the swap before the weather turns sour.
6. Examine All Hoses - Your vehicle is likely going to be exposed to some pretty severe heat as the weather warms up, and that means the coolant system will be under increased pressure to keep everything the right temperature. Take the time to look over the hoses in the engine bay. There shouldn't be any cracks, cuts or odd bulges. If there are, it won't be long before that particular hose gives up for good. If you see a problem now, have it fixed quickly and save yourself from frustration on the side of the road.
7. Eyeball All Belts - Large fluctuations in temperature can wreak havoc on old or worn belts. As things warm up under your hood, an old belt can easily begin to slip on the pulleys. That may mean that things like your air conditioning, power steering or charging system won't be operating as efficiently as they should be. Be sure to check for any visible cracks or fraying. You can also test belt tension by pressing down on a suspended section of the belt with the engine off. If the belt moves more than a quarter-inch, it's time for a replacement.
8. Make Sure Fog Lights Work - Warmer temperatures in the morning mean a greater likelihood of running into fog on your commute, and since it's probably been a long time since you've used your fog lights, now is a good time to check the bulbs. Turn on your headlights and press the fog-light button. The light should shine evenly down the road in front of the vehicle, not off to one side and not very far ahead. Remember that fog lights operate only when using your low beams, and that they turn off while using high beams.
9. Replace All Fluids - Changing your oil is easy. But few people think about transmission, power-steering or brake fluids until there is a serious problem. Everything should be at the proper level and the appropriate color. Your oil should be a honey-brown to brown color, while the transmission and power-steering fluid should be bright red. Your brake fluid should be clear to yellow. If anything looks dark or burnt, have it flushed and replaced right away.
10. Wash, Polish and Wax - Summer sun and heat are particularly harsh on your car's paint. Sweltering temperatures, road grime and intensive ultraviolet rays combine to do a number on metal and paint. While a good car wash is a solid place to start, most experts recommend a good polishing four times a year to clear contaminants and reduce the chance of oxidation. Follow the polish with a high-quality automotive wax to help seal any microscopic cracks in the paint and protect the finish from the summer heat. Doing so does more than simply make your vehicle look as good as new; it can help keep the paint in tip-top shape in case you ever decide to sell the vehicle.
Now have a safe and fun summer. I'll try to make one for winter as well when the season come closer.