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Getting Your Car Ready for Summer

Summer 1 The dog days (see note) of summer are nearly upon us, and if you haven’t done it already, now’s the time to get your car ready for summer! Temperatures are rising and putting a toll on you and your car. Here are a few things to think about to get your car ready for summer, whether you’re planning on sticking around town or heading out on vacation:

  • Engine Cooling – Your engine, aside from moving your car, also generates a lot of heat. In fact, as much as 50% of the energy in gasoline is simply lost as heat! Some of that heat is good, because it helps your engine run efficiently, and also heats the cabin in winter, but the rest of the heat goes to the air, via the cooling system. With warmer temperatures, it’s even harder to dissipate that heat. Have your engine cooling system checked, including coolant level and concentration, pressure cap, hoses, radiator, fans, and drive belt. Repair or replace any questionable items before summer puts them to the test.
  • Air Conditioning – Air conditioning may be purely a comfort item for some, but don’t forget that it also keeps your windshield from fogging up. A summer storm can easily lead to windshield fogging and a loss of visibility! Have your air conditioning system performance-checked before you get into the high-demand summer.
  • Summer 2Electrical System – In car electrical systems, heat kills. It’s already hot under the hood, and the added heat of summer just makes for even more heat. Heat generates electrical resistance, and resistance generates heat. Check for power-robbing corrosion in the battery cables, and have your electrical system tested by a professional technician. Make sure the drive belt is in good condition as well, since this drives the alternator.
  • Tires – By now, you should definitely have taken your snow tires off and replaced them with all-season or summer tires. The reason for this is that snow tires are made with softer rubber, which stays flexible even on ice. In summer, pavement temperature can exceed 160 °F in high sun, which makes snow tires even softer, leading to accelerated wear. All-season tires are not affected as much by hot pavement, and summer tires even less so. Save yourself some money and save those snow tires for winter.
  • Oil Change – For high-mileage vehicles, switching to a higher-grade oil may prevent blow-by and oil burning. If you usually use 5W-20, switching to 10W-30 may be a good idea.
  • Emergency Kit – Even with all this preparation, something still might go wrong, so you should have a summer emergency kit in your trunk. Aside from the usual items, you should include: A gallon of coolant (pre-mixed if necessary), jumper cables, and basic hand tools and RTV silicone (in case you have to remove a broken thermostat). Extra radiator or heater hoses and clamps might be a good idea, too. For yourself, you should make sure you have a cell-phone charger or battery backup, sunblock, sun shade, and drinking water.

Summer, for many people, is the time to have fun. If you take the time to prepare your vehicle ahead of time, then you reduce your chances of finding yourself on the side of the road instead of at the beach.

Note: We really shouldn’t have to say this, but never, ever, leave pets, children, or old people in a car on a summer day. Even with the windows cracked open, internal temperatures can lead to heat stroke in less than an hour!

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