If you plan on taking a couple summer road trips, then you’ll need to get your car maintenance sorted out first. You don’t want to need emergency auto repair in the middle of the Nowheresville. Sitcoms may thrive on that kind of drama, but you’ve got better things to do.
Help your engine keep its cool.
An inefficient engine can wreak havoc on your travel plans. Here are a few considerations when it comes to keeping your motor running.
It’s true that new synthetic formulas and better engine technology have doubled and sometimes even tripled the mileage on oil from the previous 3,000 miles in recent years. However, more frequent oil changes may be in order if you’re putting more stress on your motor, like when you’ve loaded your car down with lots of camping gear and friends every weekend.
When in doubt, having an oil change at the beginning and end of summer is a good rule to follow. Your dealer will be able to give you a more specific timetable based on your make and model.
Even if you’re between tune ups, it’s better to check your coolant, or antifreeze, levels one time too many than run on low levels in the heat. Make sure the engine is cold, and then look at where the liquid sits relative to the minimum and maximum fill lines on the outside of the reservoir. You shouldn’t have to touch a thing as long as the level is between those lines.
Full Tune Up
Especially if it’s been a while, having a professional tune up done on your car can give you peace of mind on the road ahead. Your local automotive dealer can cover all the bases that you wouldn’t think about otherwise.
For example, a technician may replace worn-out spark plugs and air filters, or even diagnose and fix a faulty oxygen sensor—the component that monitors your fuel efficiency and commonly causes that dreaded ‘Check Engine’ light to turn on when it goes bad.
Prepare your tires for all those miles over hot asphalt.
While you can easily adjust your tire inflation right before you head out, you’ll risk a lot if you put off assessing your tires’ condition until the last moment or neglect them. Here are a few areas to look at to make sure that your tires are summer ready.
One of the most important steps that you can take is to check if you have enough tread on your tires. Being the part in contact with the road at all times, tire tread is essential to keeping your vehicle where you want it to be.
While 2/32 of an inch is the minimum legal tread depth, measured from within the grooves, you’ll need more than the minimum if you’re going for a long trip. Based on average tread depth and tread life on a new tire, you can expect a good 1,500 to 2,000 miles per 1/8” of tread wear.
Summer vs. All-season Tires
If you intend to hug the sunny coastline, swapping for some summer tires can save you a good chunk of gas money. Tires made for summer driving will typically feature shorter sidewalls—the part running from the rim to the tread—and fewer grooves. However, all-season tires may be the best option in cases where you may decide to take a detour into the mountains or possibly encounter heavy rain during your travels.
Check on all the other important parts—big and small.
Now that you’ve covered the two biggest potential issues, there’s still more to consider. If you only have time to check on a couple of the following items before your next trip, priority must go to brakes and wheel alignment. However, all these factors can greatly impact driving in terms of safety and comfort.
Brakes & Brake Fluid
Looking at your brakes for excessive wear may be difficult if you aren’t the hands-on type. One way that you can tell if you need to get your hands dirty—or someone else’s—taking a wheel off to look is if you can feel any pulsating or, worse, grittiness in the brake pedal when stopping from at least 30 miles per hour.
If the pedal itself seems less responsive, you likely have a problem with low brake fluid instead. Take your car in to your dealer immediately if you encounter this issue since it could mean that there’s a leak in the brake lines. Calling a tow truck will be safer than just topping off with more fluid.
Misaligned wheels can cause a number of issues—especially on long drives. The milder signs to look out for before hitting the road this summer are uneven tread wear and a slight pulling feeling when steering. The most severe signs include squealing tires when turning and the steering wheel staying visibly askew when you’re driving straight.
If you’re going to do a lot of highway driving this summer, then you should be sure to get a wheel alignment done. Misalignment can cause your automobile to drift into another lane if you’re not careful, and you can lose traction more easily.
Windows & AC
If your power windows stop functioning mid-journey, that’ll be one more frustration that you didn’t need distracting you. Make sure that there aren’t any hiccups in this function, and get a car mechanic to sort it out ASAP if there are.
It’ll be even worse if your air conditioning goes out, too. Run your AC for at least an hour all together before heading out on the long road. Pay attention to any odd smells or noises as warning signs.
Wiper Blades & Windshield Washer Fluid
Just because the sun is out more doesn’t mean that you won’t need your windshield wipers. Warm weather brings with it more bugs and birds, which in turn can gunk up your view of the road ahead. Check your wiper blades for any nicks or signs of wear in the rubber squeegee part, and replace them if you see any.
You’ll also need to top off your windshield washer fluid to help you clean off all those kamikaze insects and bird excrement. A streak-free formula will work best to keep these substances from smearing across your field of vision.
Even if you can’t get much time off for a summer vacation, you’ll still need to prepare your car for the rising temperatures. We hope that you will find the time to visit a local beach, enjoy a county fair, or go for a few scenic hikes nonetheless.