Summer car care tips for traveling

car engine, dipstick, man checking engine oil

Summer is the hottest time of the year to travel, both in temperature and traffic. It may also be the most anticipated: the long, sunny days and high-degree temperatures bring fun weekends at the beach, an exciting nightlife, and vacation treks across the country. And for this, your vehicle has to be in top shape. Before you set out for your summertime adventures on the road, both great and small, make sure you check your vehicle and engage in the best practices to keep it moving smoothly this time of the year. Read on for some summer car care tips to help that happen.

Things to check for summer travel

There are several systems within your vehicle that will need to be checked by either yourself or a trusted mechanic, many of which may already be familiar or routine. But if you plan to hit the road in these hot summer months, these systems will need to be checked as soon as the season is here.

Air conditioning

Nothing quite says it’s summertime in our vehicles like the near-automatic push and adjusting of the car’s A/C system in the console. Of all the comforts your vehicle provides, a cool and working air conditioning unit is at the top of the list and an important element of summer car care tips.

Since the A/C has essentially been dormant in the preceding months, now is the time to get it checked to ensure it’s working well and to curtail any problems. A local body shop mechanic can check the air conditioning system for you. You should also refer to your owner’s manual for service scheduling as well as information on ways you can fix the A/C if there’s a minor problem.

Although a fully functioning air conditioning unit is a full-on relief and essential if you are to weather the high heat of summer travel, it’s probably not a good idea to constantly use it. Your air conditioning units rely on your car’s gasoline, so it’s best to turn it on less frequently as opposed to more frequently and on the hottest of days. A rolled-down car window in the front and back can still provide a comfortable breeze and allow you to enjoy the season even more.

Coolant

Among the things that could go wrong during the dog days of summer is the overheating of a car’s engine. The engine, as many mechanics will attest, is the heart of the car. The cooling system plays a pivotal role in that it maintains the ideal temperature of the engine. Coolant, or antifreeze, fuels this system and should be serviced regularly. Generally, it’s recommended that a vehicle receive a coolant flush from the reservoir once every one to two years. However, the owner’s manual will dictate the recommended service times and other information pertaining to the coolant, so this manual should be referred to prior to taking any service steps.

If you find yourself in a situation where your engine is overheating (indicators include the warning light on your dashboard turns on or vapors start emanating from the engine), you should take these steps to rectify the situation: first, pull over on the side of the road and turn the engine off. After a reasonable amount of time has passed to allow the engine to cool, open the hood and check your coolant level. If it’s low, you should refill it to the recommended limit and start your car. If you find the coolant level was not the issue, you should arrange to have the vehicle towed to the nearest shop. It’s not recommended that you continue to drive your vehicle with it overheated – the damage could be irreversible.

Tires

Our tires bear the brunt of the wear-and-tear we place on our vehicles every year. They’re built to last thousands of miles, but our tires still must be properly maintained, especially for summer travel. In the care of your tires, maintaining an accurate tire pressure is a priority. Heat can alter the pressure of your tires, leading to possible damage and performance on the road that is less than ideal. You should check tire pressure two to three times per month, and this should be done when the tires are relatively cold, ideally in the morning. To obtain the proper amount of pressure for your tires (PSI), you should consult the owner’s manual or check the inside of the driver side door.  Proper tire pressure can prevent flat tires, tire blow-outs, and improve fuel economy.

Tires should also be regularly rotated. This will even out the wear and tear of your tires and give them some longevity. Experts recommend rotating your tires every 5,000 to 6,000 miles or in six-month intervals. Lastly, check the tread of your tires. The grooves in tires perform an important function in your tire’s performance on the road. If they are worn down, this is an important sign they need to be replaced. In the event you’re unable to prevent a flat tire, make sure you have roadside assistance at your fingertips.

Oil change and refill

Since the engine acts as the heart of the car, getting your oil and filter changed regularly as well as checking the oil on your dipstick is vital to the care of your car. Motor oil keeps the engine running smoothly as it is an organ with lots of movable parts, and the oil filter removes harmful contaminants. The standard rule of thumb is to have your oil changed every 3,000 miles or three months. The dipstick in your engine should be checked every few weeks and just before you set out on a long road trip.

Brakes

With so much to enjoy in the summer months, the last thing you want to contend with is faulty or malfunctioning brakes on the road. Routine checks should always be in order for the care of your brakes, but also listen for anything out of the ordinary, like squealing, screeching, or growling and make a note of your vehicle’s stopping performance. Sound brake performance is essential for summer travel.

Windshield wipers/cleaning fluid

Summer brings with it unique challenges in terms of visibility. In addition to increased thunderstorms, drivers will need to contend with dust, pollen, bugs, and the threat of glare on their windshields. All of this can impact a driver’s ability to see and operate effectively. As such, it’s recommended that windshield wipers and wiper fluid be checked or replaced at the start of the season to ensure there’s no barrier to driver visibility on the road.

Air filters

Air filters have a role to play in the efficiency of your car. They keep debris and pollutants from the air out of the engine, which is especially important in the pollen-prone months of the summer. As with many components of the car, air filters should be routinely changed, preferably every 12 months, but take into account your own vehicle manufacturer’s specifications.

Best practices for the summer

In addition to checks, maintenance, and possible replacements of parts, it’s also a good idea to employ these additional car care tips for summer travel:

  • Park in the shade. If at all possible, park your vehicle in the shade to keep it cool and protect against exterior damage from the hot sun.
  • Use windshield covers for heat. Consider using windshield covers to protect the interior to maintain comfortable temperatures not only for the driver, but for child passengers and pets.
  • Consider hail covers. If you don’t have the protection of a garage, try using hail covers to shield your entire vehicle in the summer, as the season comes with increased hail and hurricanes.
  • Clean your interior. Make sure you keep the interior of your car clean. Long and frequent trips in the summer can include a pile up of trash, food, and other belongings that, combined with the heat, can leave damage to the interior.

Summer travel will bring unique challenges in the care and maintenance of your car, but with the right preparation, a car care meltdown can be avoided. Make sure you’re protected with the right coverage from Elephant and get a quote today.

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