Very soon the kids will be out of school, the barbecue pits pulled out of storage and pools will be filled because summer is about to explode in St. Louis! It’s important, when planning all your summer activities to think about your vehicle’s changing needs and maintenance.
Here are our tips to getting (and keeping) your car in summer shape:
Keeping cool in the summer is just as important for our cars life as it is for ours! In addition to checking the level of coolant fluid in your car, you should also check the state of the hoses (squeeze the hoses, when the engine is cool, to make sure they feel firm and not excessively squishy or soft.) and the coolant reservoir. Make sure that it’s not cracked or leaking. Keep an eye out for leaks, especially at joints and connection points, such as where a hose connects to the engine block. When driving, be sure to look at your gauges frequently-if you see the temperature going up, you need to pull over. Listening to your car is important too. If you hear a bubbling sound/hissing sound, you could have a coolant leak or other trouble. NEVER drive a vehicle that has coolant system issues, tow it to the shop and save yourself costly damage!
Check oil, brake, power-steering, and windshield-washer fluids regularly. These liquids never stop being used and consumed. Speaking of brake fluid, how do the brakes on your car feel in general? Are they lacking in a bite? Feeling a bit spongy? If so, new pads and a system bleed might be required. This is the kind of maintenance you should have our technicians look at for you.
On most, but not all, vehicles you have a serpentine belt that runs between the alternator, the fan and several other components. It can break down, become loose, start to squeal, and sometimes just break for no apparent reason. It needs to be in good condition and at the right amount of tension. If you see cracks in the belt or small pieces missing, it’s time to replace the belt. Also listen for any “whining” when the vehicle is running. Sometimes this is an indicator that the belt is about to be a problem!
Worn wipers create streaks across the windshield or fail to remove anything at all and can affect your vision while driving. Replacing them doesn’t cost much, but it can sometimes be unnerving to put them on yourself. Don’t be embarrassed to ask our friendly technicians to replace them for you. (We check the wiper blades as part of our courtesy checks!) Never wait to replace them. Along with the wiper blades, you also want to keep the inside of those windshields clean. Sunsets, while beautiful, can also be a hazard, especially when your car’s windshield is dirty. The haze will diffuse the light and make things hard to see. Since we get “used” to the grime on our windows, it can build up and make it harder to see at night. Make sure to clean your windows, inside and out, often, to keep them clean and clear.
Purchase a Sun Shade or Tint your Rear Windows
For those times when you’re not driving, but the car is still out in the sun, a cover that goes in the windshield will protect the dashboard against ultraviolet rays and help the cabin stay a little cooler. Consider shades for the rear/side windows, too, as they’ll provide some protection for those passengers in the back as well!
You can also consider having your rear windows tinted. It will protect the cars, your passengers, and help keep the car cooler. You should be careful when having your windows tinted, and observe any and all laws in regard to gradient and opacity of the tint.
Air-conditioning is a summer essential. If the system hasn’t been working properly but wasn’t really a pressing issue over the winter, now’s the time to get serious. If it’s an older car you could be leaking Freon into the atmosphere. (Which is not cool) Bear in mind, if there’s not enough refrigerant in the system, you have a leak. There are plenty of leak-sealing products and refrigerant rechargers available. Have a one of our qualified mechanics fix the leak before you have the air-conditioning system recharged. You could also have other mechanical reasons why the ac doesn’t work.
This is one of the most overlooked items on any car! It can become clogged with a host of things and we often see them full of nuts or acorns the squirrels stashed there over the winter.
Many modern cars also have pollen filters or cabin filtration systems, so look at those, too. Sometimes these cabin filters are easy to change yourself. Like everything else mentioned here: When in doubt, consult our qualified technicians.
Summer heat accelerates the rate of fluid loss and resulting oxidation of battery components, which can leave you stranded, heat is one of the top reasons for battery failure! The technicians, here at Hillside Auto Repair, will be able to tell you the temperature at which your battery could fail. A simple battery test could ensure you won’t be caught off guard by a car that won’t start this summer. You should also have a good pair of jumper cables in your car. They are an essential that should remain in your trunk year-round.
If your car pulls to one side, your steering wheel vibrates, or your steering wheel isn’t centered when you’re driving straight, get your vehicle’s alignment checked out. Alignment can be thrown off by general wear and tear, as well as run-ins with rough roads, potholes and curbs. Proper alignment can help extend the life of your tires, make for a smoother ride, and may save money on gas. Improper alignment can cause steering issues and improper wear on your tires.
Speaking of tires, they really need to be checked regularly all year round. Pressures must be correct (you can consult the manual or look for that information on the inside of the fuel door or the door jamb for the driver’s door), treads should be free of stones, stray nails and the like, and all four should be in good condition. Good condition means no cracks, no uneven wear (this might be caused by a suspension/alignment problem), and plenty of tread depth. Check your spare tire too, make sure you have (and know how to operate) a jack. If you encounter a flat tire on the road, BE SURE TO CHECK YOUR SURROUNDINGS before you go about changing the flat. People are struck and killed on the side of highways, make sure you aren’t one of them!
If you are going to go, make sure you can also stop. Great advice from my grandfather and words you should heed as well. Brakes are a major safety component on your car. Stop-and-go traffic, long holiday road trips, and inclement conditions can certainly do a number on your brakes. Get them checked and make sure you come and go safely!
Driver and Passengers
When road-tripping, it’s better to make a few more bathroom breaks and stretch your legs than to end up cranky and fatigued. While you want to get to your destination as quick as possible, always remember safety. (Yes, you can drive to the Florida panhandle in 11 hours if you push it, but sleepy drivers are DANGEROUS drivers!)
It’s a good idea to also plan for the trip. Make a list. For example: sunglasses, hats, travel mugs, games for the kids, snacks, chargers for the phones and tablets, flashlight and a small tool kit.
If a scheduled service is coming up, think about getting it done before a long drive. It’s also wise to make sure your insurance and driving license are up to date. In Missouri it’s legal to use a mobile phone to show proof of insurance, but it’s also a good idea to have a hardcopy in the car with you. (in case you get connectivity issues)
A fun idea (from our family to yours) is to create, a “family playlist” on your favorite streaming app. Then the whole family will have at least one or two songs that’s their favorite. You may find yourself making new memories to old songs or liking an artist your child likes! (Like my daughter and I share a love of Queen).