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Thread: Summer car care tips

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    Summer car care tips

    Some of us haven't had much of a winter -- but the spring driving season's only a couple of months away. That means it's time to start thinking about making sure your vehicle's ready for those 90 and 100 degree days -- especially if they get here a month or two ahead of schedule.

    * Cooling system -- This is the big one; it's also the one that many people don't think much about -- until steam starts pouring out from under the hood on a blazing hot June afternoon. In general, if your vehicle is more than five years old (or it's been that long since a check was performed), it's likely the belt(s) that drive(s) the water pump needs to be replaced and the coolant flushed out and the system re-filled with fresh coolant. This is regularly needed service -- just like an oil change. And on modern cars with aluminum cylinder heads (or entire engines) it is especially important to keep the cooling system in proper working order -- because overheating can lead to extremely expensive, even catastrophic, damage.

    * Exhaust -- Road salt accelerates rust and is very good at eating through exhaust systems that aren't made of stainless steel tubing. And if you have an older car (or have had the exhaust replaced previously) it's very possible you have pipes made of standard "aluminized" tubing that can be eaten away in as little as a year or two from the time it was installed. Each spring, the exhaust system should be physically inspected for problems such as excessive deterioration and looseness. A muffler falling out onto the road can be hazardous to other drivers -- and a carbon monoxide leak could be hazardous to you. Also, in areas were vehicle emissions inspections are mandatory, a damaged/leaking exhaust will cause your car to fail "smog."

    * Windshield wipers -- These get chewed up pretty quickly, especially if the weather's been bad. The "blade" dulls -- and instead of clearing the windshield, it just smears it. Wiper blades should be replaced as soon as they show signs of not being able to clear the glass, "streak-free" with each pass. On newer cars, removing old blades and replacing them with refills is easy and should not require any tools. And if you prefer not to handle the job yourself, may auto parts stores (such as Advance Auto) will install new blades for you, free of charge.

    * Tire pressure -- Survey after survey has found that most cars are driving around on at least one under-inflated tire, resulting in decreased fuel economy, as well as handling and braking problems. Tire life is also reduced. Most people just don't take the time to regularly check their vehicle's tire pressure -- and since full-service gas stations have become a distant memory, they may drive for months on under-inflated tires. Tire pressure should be checked "cold" (ideally, after the vehicle has been sitting overnight) and each tire filled to the PSI recommended by the manufacturer of the tire (or the car). Ask the tire shop, or look up the info in your owner's manual. Since tires can develop slow leaks (and even significant loss of air pressure may not be visible to the naked eye), each tire's pressure should be re-checked and adjusted as necessary every two weeks -- year 'round.

    * Thorough cleaning -- It's harder to keep a car clean when it's 20 degrees outside; even more so when snowstorm follows snowstorm. When warm weather finally arrives, a thorough cleaning -- especially of hard-to-reach areas such as door/trunk jambs and the underside of the car -- is a wise investment in the future good looks (and thus, re-sale value) of your vehicle.

    And finally, the big one:

    * Air conditioning -- It's common to discover on the first really warm day of spring that your car's AC is on the fritz. A slow leak over the previous several months (when the system was not in use) is not something you'd notice. The smart thing to do is to run the AC system for 10-15 minutes at least once a week or so during the winter months; this will circulate refrigerant as well as lubricating oil inside the compressor, which will help keep internal seals and hoses, etc. pliable (and hopefully, leak-free). And if the system's performance begins to ebb (it should be able to blow ice-cold air almost immediately when the outside temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit) then you've got advance warning of a possible AC system problem -- and can take the car in for service before the spring rush. Fail to do this and you may find yourself waiting in line with all the others who forgot about their AC over the winter months -- and got a rude (and very warm) awakening when they found out it wasn't working anymore.


  2. #2

    Re: Summer car care tips

    Charging system!

    Be sure your alternator belt is in good shape. Clean the corrosion off the battery connections. Double-check the ground wire connections.

    Remember, "the batter that dies in the winter got sick last summer!"

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