Summer Season Car Preparation

Getting Your Car Ready for the Summer Heat

Like any machine, cars need special attention during the extreme temperatures. With summer on its way, it is time to check and prepare your vehicle for the long hot days ahead. To begin, one thing that many people forget is that winter has just passed. As a result, many vehicles’ under carriages are covered with salt and debris from snow covered roads. To help prevent rust and increase the vehicles life, use a high pressure power washer or the local car wash to clean the underside of the vehicle as well as road dirt on all painted surfaces. Make sure to remove all dirt and salt left over from winter’s snow and slush covered roads. Next, it’s time to check the vehicle’s anti-freeze. (NOTE: Only check coolant when the engine is cold).

 In addition to preventing the vehicle from freezing during the winter, anti-freeze increases the boiling point of water. A good, strong coolant should be clean and have a boiling point between 260 and 270 degrees F. Using an antifreeze tester, a very inexpensive tool which can be purchased at most parts stores, simply check to make sure the coolant's boiling temperature is within the recommended temperatures mentioned. Also, make sure the coolant is full and clean. If it appears to be brown or a rust color, we recommend having the system flushed and refilled with a 50/50 mix of coolant and water. Additionally, make sure to use the correct type of coolant. Many manufacturers have their own specific types. Combining different types can lead to expensive engine repairs. If you are unsure, purchase a universal GO-5 type coolant that is useable with all types. Also, clean up all spills. Coolant is poisonous and it will attract pets.

 While under the hood, inspect all belts and hoses. Make sure that the accessory belt is tight and doesn’t show signs of cracking. If you see more than three cracks within a one inch area, it is time to replace the belt. Although it may not be ready to break at that moment, the summer’s heat and long trips justify replacement. Also, inspect all coolant hoses. Check for leaks, cracks, and bulging. Bulging hoses, leaks, and cracks will lead to only one thing, a break down. Replace the hoses if you notice any of the signs. In addition to checking hoses and the belts, start the engine, allow it to warm up and make sure the cooling fans are functioning properly. If they do not turn on, overheating in city traffic is likely to happen.

 Although most people feel winter is hard on the vehicle’s battery, the summer’s heat is actually worse. During the summer months, the use of air conditioning places an extra load on the battery. That in combination with extreme under hood temperatures can drain a weak battery quickly. It is recommended to have the battery load tested. Most parts stores will provide this service free of charge, and you will know if the battery is likely to maintain good service. Also, when checking the battery, make sure that the terminals are clean, tight, and free of corrosion. Also, inspect the battery cables for cracks or evidence of overheating and replace as needed.

If the air conditioning isn’t cooling as well as it once did, now is the time to have the system checked. For this, we recommend checking refrigerant levels and the system for leaks. Special equipment is required. In addition, we also recommend checking for oil leaks. Most common leaks come from the valve covers. Oil has a high flash point, but can catch fire if leaks are bad enough and temperatures get hot enough. If you see any leaks, have them repaired to prevent concerns and oil consumption.

 Before closing the hood, make sure the windshield washer tank is full, and check engine oil , transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid levels. Fill with the appropriate fluid. Also, make sure they are clean and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for servicing. Because of the winter months, make sure to check the basics too. Check and replace the air filter if needed to help improve fuel economy. If your check engine light is on, have the computer scanned to determine what trouble code has been set and have it repaired. Furthermore, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations as far as maintenance such as transmission services, oil changes, and tune ups.

 For general maintenance recommendations, refer to our home page under “Maintenance.” Now it’s time to close the hood and check the exterior. Check for burned out lights and replace as needed. Also, check tire pressure. Ambient temperatures affect tire pressure, so make sure to properly inflate them to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Tire pressure recommendations can be found in the vehicle’s owner’s manual and often times is stamped on the inside of the driver’s door. If you haven’t removed your snow tires, have that done as well as check the condition of the tires. In the tread of all tires is a tread bar which runs against the tread pattern. When that point is reached, the tires need replacement. The tread bars will touch when the tire has approximately 3/32” of rubber left. Also, check for side wall damage and evidence of belts shifts which may have resulted from spinning the tires in snow. If there is bulging or cuts on the sidewall of the tire, have a tire specialist inspect the tire for safety.

 Summer is back and it’s time to get out of the house and live again. Make sure your trips are safe and always take the time to inspect your vehicle. Remember, it is a machine and can’t tell you if something will leave you stranded. There is no way to be 100% sure a break down will not occur, but do your best to prevent problems. Preventative maintenance is your best resource. Also, to help save money, check out our "How to Repair" section. There you will find directions and videos from replacing brakes to checking fuel pump pressure and more. Most jobs are easy when someone shows you how to do it. That is why we are here. From all of us at, have a safe and enjoyable summer. By Joe Felicia - aka: Jacobandnickolas

If further assistance is needed, our certified car repair technicians are ready to answer your car questions.

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Article first published (Updated 2013-08-16)