A change in season comes with a change in environment, and your car’s performance depends on how it reacts to that environment. Summer is prime driving season, whether you’re cruising with the top down in your local community or are preparing for a cross-country road trip. So, if you want to maximize your vehicle’s safety and performance, you need to make sure your car is ready for the season. This checklist will help you understand some of the most important maintenance items to address as we head into the summer months.
Why Summer Can Take Its Toll on Your Car
What is it about summer that makes it necessary to check your car for various tune-ups or changes?
- Heat. The intensity of the summer heat might be unpleasant for you, but it can also do some real damage to your vehicle. When temperatures rise into the 90s or higher, the physical properties of matter begin to change; your engine will work differently, your vehicle components may warp, and you need to be prepared for such changes.
- Dust. Thanks to flourishing plant life and more outdoor activities, there tend to be more airborne particles in the summer months. This collective dust can interfere with your vehicle’s performance.
- Traffic. Summer also tends to be a busier month for driving. On one level, this means you’ll spend more time driving your car—making it more vulnerable to potential maintenance issues. On another level, this means you could be stuck in more stop-and-go traffic, which can wreak havoc on your vehicle.
How to Prepare Your Car for Summer
Knowing these points of vulnerability, what specific maintenance items do you need to address to keep your vehicle in good working order?
- Check the AC. First, you’ll want to do a dry run of the air conditioner. The last thing you want is for your AC unit to stop working in the middle of an excruciatingly hot day. Before summer hits its peak, turn on the air conditioner in your car and make sure it’s blowing cold air properly. If you notice any strange odors, you can run it for a while to see if they pass through.
- Change your air filter. The air filter in your vehicle is responsible for filtering out airborne particles that can interfere with your car’s operation. If it’s dirty, or clogged, it isn’t going to be able to perform at maximum efficiency. Since summer tends to have more airborne particles than average, this is a good opportunity to make a swap. You may also consider switching out your cabin air filter if you’re concerned about the longevity of your AC system.
- Check your tire pressure. Your tire pressure can change about a pound per square inch with every 10 degree change in outdoor temperature, which is a big difference. Maintaining an ideal tire pressure is essential for keeping your vehicle operating at peak fuel efficiency, not to mention helping wear your tires evenly. It’s also important to prevent the possibility of a blowout or other damage to your tires.
- Rotate your tires. Your car tires wear unevenly, from front to rear and from right to left. The standard best practice is to rotate your tires every 5,000 miles, so if you haven’t done it recently, now’s a good time to do it. Rotated tires will help you maximize your tire lifespan and reduce potential damage your tires could incur.
- Maintain the battery. The winter months are known for making it harder to start your car because of the burden they put on the battery. But the heat of the summer months can actually reduce your battery life. Check your battery before summer sets in, and be sure to keep a spare pair of jumper cables in the trunk.
- Change the oil. It was once recommended that vehicles use a thicker grade of oil in summer and a thinner grade in winter, to maximize durability and performance during their respective temperature extremes. However, modern oils are advanced enough to be all-purpose, so you don’t need to worry about it. It is important that you get your oil changed regularly, especially before summer hits its peak. The high temperatures of the season, combined with the extra burden of increased traveling, means your engine is going to be working overtime. It’s going to need as much clean oil as it can get.
- Check your fluids. Because the heat can change the properties of liquids and increase evaporation, it’s a good idea to check the other fluid levels in your car. Your transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and windshield wiper fluid are all contenders here. It only takes a few minutes to check and/or refill these, so you might as well do it.
- Get a sun shade. This isn’t a form of vehicular maintenance per se, but it is a good idea to get a sun shade for your car for when you park outside on a hot, sunny day. This will protect your car’s interior against sun damage, and just as importantly—it will prevent you from facing the unbearable heat of a car that’s been sitting in the sun all day.
- Prepare for an emergency. Just in case you experience a breakdown, you’ll want to put together an emergency kit that contains jumper cables, sealant, duct tape, fuses, road flares, and a basic toolkit. Because it’s summer, you’ll want to include a few specialty items like water, sunscreen, and a blanket (to serve as a shade).
Many of these maintenance items are either simple or inexpensive, so there’s no excuse for not taking care of them before you head out on that summer road trip. A little bit of extra time or money now could keep your vehicle in better shape for longer, increasing your safety and long-term cost efficiency.
Are you ready to get your car maintained and ready for your summer plans? Schedule an appointment with RC Auto Specialists for your Ford vehicle today!