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5 Summertime Car Maintenance Projects

Updated August 12, 2014

Summer brings with it a chance for excursions along with unbridled sunshine. While those things might be a welcome relief for you, they can take quite a toll on your car. Summer is the prime season for breakdowns and car troubles. To avoid breaking down on your way to that beautiful national park, here are five summertime car maintenance projects to keep your car in great shape.

1. Take care of your tires.

Only about one out of every ten drivers checks their tire pressure correctly. That’s unfortunate, considering how important tires are to your vehicle. After all, they are the only parts of your car that make direct contact with the road. An over-inflated, under-inflated, misaligned, or worn down tire spells all sorts of dangers, especially in hot summer weather.

  • Check your tire pressure regularly. Tire pressure changes with the weather, about one to two PSI per 10 degrees Fahrenheit increase in outside temperature. Consult your driver’s side door jamb for the correct tire pressure.
  • An under-inflated tire will bulge outwards. This puts a lot of pressure on your tire’s sidewalls, and with enough heat and pressure, that tire will eventually blowout. An over-inflated tire makes less contact with the road, which could lead to slips and hydroplaning. Use an air compressor or visit a service station to fill the tire properly.
  • Take your car to the local service shop or specialty tire store to check for proper alignment and balance.

Keep a bottle jack or other car lift mechanism around at home to properly check worn tires.

2. Change the oil and oil filter.

Oil is what keeps your engine going, ensuring clean, smooth, and cool operation. Oil change specialists say to change your oil every 3,000 miles. Your owner’s manual will tell you every 7,500 miles, maybe even more. Fact is, driving in the heat of summer makes it easier for your engine to overheat. Check your oil before you head out on any big trips. It should look brownish-yellow and clean on the dipstick.

3. Check your brakes.

Your brakes are the primary safety feature on your car. They also tend to suffer a lot of friction, which is only amplified given that summer sun. Brakes should be replaced when the pad or shoe is worn down past the minimum thickness specified by the manufacturer.

The most obvious sign of how your brakes are doing is your brake pedal. If pressing your brake pedal feels any different (too soft, too resistant, too low) then there’s probably something wrong with the brakes. Listen for any scraping or grinding sounds coming from the brakes as well.

4. Check your coolant and radiator.

Cars run hot. The optimum temperature for the average combustion engine is around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, but if an engine runs too hot, you’re in trouble. The moving metal parts in the engine can actually melt and fuse together, leading to quite a repair bill.

Your car’s cooling system prevents that with help from antifreeze, but low coolant levels, a broken fan belt, a cracked hose, or any number of problems can cause your car to overheat and break down. Make sure that all your coolant levels are fine and consider flushing your radiator every couple years.

5. Maintain your air conditioning.

When you’re sitting in traffic during the summer, your only solace is the cool breeze flowing through your car’s air conditioning. A summer without air conditioning would be unbearable. The most common cause of a bad air conditioning system is a low level of refrigerant.

Air conditioning is a complicated beast. If you think you’re A/C isn’t working, it’s best to have a professional check it out.

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Calvin Escobar
About Calvin Escobar

The Car scene is so diverse Where I come from, most enthusiasts recognize the amazing engineering (particularly the engines). The bulk of the ridicule originates from the manner in which many of the vehicles are modded/maintained. Thus, the jokes and or hate tends to be aimed more at the owner rather than the machine. All of which makes seeing properly sorted old Toyota's and Hondas at car meets, auto shows, and track days all the more refreshing.

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