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Beat the Heat: Car Care Tips For Summer Driving

While winter weather certainly takes a toll on your vehicle, the heat of summer has its own special challenges. According to the Car Care Council, smoldering temperatures can stress your cooling system, battery and tires, so before you set off on a summer journey, whether it’s across town or across the country, be sure to follow these tips to keep your ride healthy and your journey safe.

Oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle, so check it often to make sure you have an adequate amount to keep your engine well lubricated and purring like a kitten. Let the engine run for a few minutes before dipping into your oil reservoir to ensure you get an accurate reading. If it’s time for an oil change, make sure you take it to a reputable service provider. Check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation on oil changes.  Some recommend changing every 3,000 miles, while others let you wait until you’ve passed the 7,500 mile mark.

Your cooling system is another biggie when it comes to keeping your car healthy.  During summer months, it works overtime to keep your engine from overheating, so you should always check your radiator water level, especially when heading out on a trip.  The mixture should be half coolant and half water.  Never open the cap on your radiator when the engine is hot, as it can boil over and cause a serious burn.  Check your hoses, too to make sure they’re in good shape. Your radiator should be flushed out every year to clear out any impurities.

Check your tires:  Few things are more important to your safety than a good set of tires.  Make it a habit to check yours often to avoid the hazards posed when driving on worn, threadbare rubber. First off, check the tread on your tires by inserting a penny between the treads with the head side down.  If Lincoln’s head is completely visible, it’s time to spring for new tires. Secondly, check your tire inflation levels with a pressure gauge to make sure they’re properly inflated. Consult your owner’s manual to see the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle. Tires that are underinflated are prone to blowouts, which is a serious safety hazard when you’re travelling at high speeds on the highway.  Overinflated tires run the risk of hydroplaning on wet pavement, another driving situation that’s extremely hazardous. In addition to keeping you safe on the road, driving with properly inflated tires has the added bonus of saving you money at the pump by getting you more miles per gallon.

Most new batteries nowadays are completely sealed and maintenance free, but if your battery is unsealed, the excessive heat of summer driving can cause the water in it to evaporate.  You need to check the water level periodically to see if it needs refilling. If so, always use distilled water to top it off.  If your battery terminals are dirty or corroded, clean them off using baking soda and water to ensure proper operation.

Summer thunderstorms mean your windshield wipers need to be in tip top shape. Clearing winter’s snow and ice off your windshield might have taken a toll on yours, so check them to see if they need replacing.   If so, they’re relatively easy to install and cheap to buy, so don’t be afraid to invest in new ones.

Taking all of the above summer maintenance issues into account, the most important tip for good vehicle health is to be a safe driver.  It’s easy to become distracted, especially on long vacation driving trips, so remember that keeping your vehicle safely on the road is your most important priority. It only takes a split second to lose control of more than a ton of hurtling steel, so don’t let your cell phone, CD player or GPS distract you from the job at hand.