Between family vacations, taking the kids to summer camp, and trips to the zoo or amusement park, you’re going to be doing a lot of driving throughout the summer. Make sure your car gets the love it needs so you can keep having fun and making memories as a family.
Summer Car Maintenance Tips
1. Get an oil change and replace filters
Changing your oil is critical to extending the lifespan of your vehicle. Oil keeps your engine properly lubricated and running efficiently. Putting off an oil change can lead to various expensive complications, so it’s best to speak with a mechanic at Virginia Tire & Auto to find out when you should change your oil.
Keep in mind that driving conditions in your area can affect how frequently you need to get an oil change. Northern Virginia mechanics follow a severe oil change service schedule.
It’s also important to replace your engine air filter, which helps capture dirt and debris that can damage your oil system.
Another filter that you might need to replace is the cabin air filter. This filter helps your air conditioner run efficiently, keeping you and your passengers comfortable on hot summer days.
2. Monitor fluid levels
Cars are prone to overheating in the summer. Maintaining the coolant level in your car prevents your engine from running too hot and reduces the chance of a breakdown. To check the coolant level yourself, pop the hood of your vehicle and locate the coolant reservoir — wait for the engine to cool down completely before checking the coolant level.
Other vehicle fluids to keep an eye on include:
Power steering fluid. Power steering uses a hydraulic system to make steering easier for the driver. When the fluid level is low, the system won’t work properly. To check this, it’s best to warm up the fluid first by turning your steering wheel from lock to lock several times with the engine at idle speed. Turn the engine off, pop the hood, and open up the power steering reservoir (you owner’s manual can help you locate this). Observe where the fluid is in relation to the “low” and “full” lines and add power steering fluid if necessary.
Transmission fluid. Maintaining the transmission fluid level allows your car to shift between gears smoothly. Check your transmission fluid level by first letting your engine warm up. If your owner’s manual allows, keep your car in neutral or park while you check. Locate your automatic transmission fluid dipstick, remove it, and wipe it clean (be careful, as it may be hot), then reinsert it fully. Remove the dipstick once again and observe the markings. If the fluid level does not reach the “full” or “warm” line, you’ll need to replace it.
Brake fluid. Brakes are the most important safety feature in a vehicle. To keep them working properly, brake fluid should be replaced every 2 years or 24,000 miles. To check your brake fluid level, locate your brake fluid reservoir, clean off the top of it (to prevent dirt and debris from getting inside), and remove the cap. Observe where the fluid level lies — it should be within half an inch of the cap.
If you’re unsure of how to check your vehicle’s fluid levels, have Virginia Tire & Auto’s expert technicians take a look at the fluid reservoirs for you.
3. Get a brake inspection
Brake maintenance is one of the most important elements of car care. Aside from the irritating squeaking sound they make when you decelerate, old, thin brake pads contribute to the wear and tear of other vehicle parts like the discs, rotors and calipers — which can lead to a pricey full brake replacement later on. Plus, driving with ineffective brake pads is unsafe and puts you and your passengers at risk.
Virginia Tire & Auto offers a free visual brake inspection which includes a brake fluid test and measurement of your car’s brake pads.
4. Check tire pressure and tread depth
Before you pack up the car and kick off your family road trip, check your car’s tire pressure and tread depth.
Maintaining proper tire inflation can extend the life of your tires and increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. The proper PSI pressure number can be found on the driver-side door frame. Make sure your spare tire is properly inflated as well.
It’s also important to check your tire treads before you begin any long drives — you can actually use a penny to test whether or not your treads are deep enough to drive on safely. Tire treads should be free of stones, stray nails, or other debris. Look for any cracks or uneven wear that could put your tires at risk of a blowout.
5. Test the car battery
Hot weather is the number one cause of shortened car battery life — battery fluid evaporates and the rate of corrosion in the battery terminals increases.
Throughout the summer months, frequently check your car battery to see if it needs more fluid, or if any cracks have formed in either the battery itself or the terminals. If you notice slight oxidation in the battery terminals, you can use a cloth or brush to remove the corrosion.
You can also have a mechanic perform a load test to ensure your battery is in good condition.
6. Check the cooling system
The last thing you want to deal with on a 95 degree summer day is a malfunctioning car air conditioner. If your AC is blowing out warm air, there’s not enough refrigerant in your cooling system. You’ll want to have a mechanic check the system for leaks before topping off your cooling system with more refrigerant.
Tip: Keep the temperature in your car down by parking in the shade or using a UV heat shield to block the sun from your dashboard when you’re not driving.
Have maintenance questions? Call Virginia Tire & Auto
Some car maintenance is best left to the professionals. Whether you need new tires, an oil change, or any other repairs, the experts at Virginia Tire & Auto are there to help — so you can spend less time worrying about car maintenance and more time enjoying your summer.