A guide to summer car maintenance
Although people always talk about the strain the winter puts on our vehicles, the hot summer months can be equally as challenging to deal with. It is therefore vital to make sure that you have a breakdown cover policy in place in order to protect yourself, particularly if you are planning on driving your vehicle to a holiday destination.
Nevertheless, even with the peace of mind that a breakdown cover policy brings, it can still prove to be a huge inconvenience when a breakdown occurs; leaving you stranded at the side of the road and needing to fork out on potentially costly repairs.
However, the chances of this happening will be reduced if you pay adhere to the following summer car maintenance tips.
Engine coolant levels
Six million motorists around the UK are risking a repair bill of over £1,000 by failing to regularly check that their engine coolant is at a recommended level according to the AA. This is absolutely vital if you are to prevent overheating in the summer.
It is recommended that you check that your coolant fluid level is between the maximum and minimum marks on the tank at least once a week when the engine is cold. If the coolant level has dropped, make sure that you get it checked out at your local garage because ordinarily coolant levels should remain at the same level between services.
The cooling fan is activated automatically when an engine begins to overheat, drawing air in through the radiator in order to cool the engine. However, if the fan seizes then the engine coolant will likely begin to boil which could cause significant damage to the engine.
The only way to check on the health of your cooling fan is to turn the heater to cold and run the car to normal temperatures (i.e. the middle of your temperature gauge). Once this has been reached, keep the engine running while parked up but do not use the car for five minutes. The fan should automatically kick in after this length of time.
A problem will be in evidence if the fan fails to activate and your engine temperatures start to spiral upwards. If this is the case simply switch your engine off and seek assistance from your breakdown cover provider or local mechanic.
Summer is often the time of year that local authorities feel is right to conduct essential road maintenance. This results in loose debris on newly surfaced roads, such as stones and tar, which can damage the bodywork of your motor.
You should therefore make sure that you drive within the recommended speed limits when passing through road work zones and not drive too closely to the back of other vehicles that could flick up debris.
Regardless of how careful you have been to ensure that you have the correct engine coolant levels and a fully functional engine cooling fan; sometimes the heat can still get a bit too much for your vehicle, particularly if you are stuck in a holiday traffic jam.
Best way of dealing with this is to turn the heater on to full and activate your air conditioning until the problem subsides.
Punctures are the most common cause of summer breakdown according to the AA; with high temperatures often aggravating damage which may already be present. It is therefore important to monitor your tyre pressures; checking them every week ensuring that they comply with the manufacturers stated guidelines. These can be found either in your vehicle handbook or on the inside of the driver’s door. If tyre pressures are dropping surprisingly quickly in one tyre, it could be an indication of a slow puncture.
It is also not unheard of for a bit of rain to fall during the summer in the UK. Having a tyre tread depth which is at least 1.6mm is therefore vital; this is the minimum which is required by law. This is important because tyre tread is used to disperse water which may be lying on the road surface; the bigger the tread, the more water that can be dispersed and the less likely you are to lose control of your vehicle.
Batteries go through a lot of pain during the winter and it is entirely possible that your unit may carry existing damage from this. Problems in this area are usually indicated by cars struggling to start.
Make sure that your battery is in full working order with a battery test, which will be done for free in many garages. This is a simple way to avoid an inconvenient breakdown.
Glare from the sun will be made worse by a dirty windscreen which will increase the likelihood of motorists becoming involved in accidents as a result of poor visibility. You should therefore make sure that you keep your vehicle stocked up with windscreen wash so that this process can be done while on the move.
However, wiper blades that are worn out will only exacerbate vision problems and negate the benefits of windscreen wash. Make sure that placement wipers are sourced out when ever required.
Anyone who has been stuck in a traffic jam in a hot car during the summer will know how valuable air conditioning is. Air conditioning units can also help to reduce pollen levels in vehicles for those who suffer from hay fever. It is therefore important to make sure that your system is fully prepared for this period.
It is estimated that 15% of the refrigerant gas will be lost annually and you should therefore ideally have your air conditioning unit serviced either every 30,000 miles or every two years so as to avoid costly repairs. However, remember not to use air conditioning all the time as it will increase fuel consumption.
The air filter is designed to keep dirt and debris from entering your car; it therefore has a tendency to become clogged up, particularly in the summer.
You can aid the air flow coming into the engine by replacing the filter in your vehicle every year. This is something which should be done during your annual service.
Planning on driving to a holiday destination in your vehicle during the summer? Then you better make sure that the brakes are working correctly.
Go to a local garage and instruct them to check your brake pads, discs and also your brake fluid levels so as to ensure maximum peace of mind before you set off on your travels.
Oil is the like a blood supply which flows through your engine, so check that your car’s oil levels are between the maximum and the minimum on your dipstick in order to avoid causing potentially irreparable damage. This should ideally be checked at least once a week.