The Associated Press
DETROIT – Winter driving can be tough on cars, with its icy roads and salt buildup. But summer has its hazards, too. The heat stresses the engine, wears down the tires and makes the car work harder to keep everything cool.
Here are five steps to help your car through the summer.
1. Be kind to your engine.
Your engine gets hot very quickly in the summer. You can save a lot of trouble – and expense – by doing some routine checks to make sure it stays lubricated and cooled. Check the oil level and make sure the oil looks clean. If it doesn’t, get an oil change. Sears will change it for less than $20. Also look for cracks in the hoses, which pump coolant from the radiator to the engine block.
2. Replace your fluids.
Many drivers don’t think about fluids beyond their motor oil. Your car also has coolant in the radiator, and fluids for the transmission and brakes.
They’re critical for keeping parts lubricated and preventing your engine from overheating. Over time, all of them lose their effectiveness and get dirty, with metal parts floating in the liquid.
“Coolant starts to eat everything. It becomes like an acid,” says Hisham Ebrahim, a mechanic at Fawzi’s Westgate Auto Repair in Ann Arbor, Mich. Both low fluid levels and old fluid can damage the parts in your car.
If you follow your car’s maintenance schedule, you shouldn’t have to worry about fluid levels, which are often checked and replaced around 60,000 miles.
Ebrahim says it costs about $200 to $300 to flush out and replace all the fluids. That can be far less expensive than the alternative: An overheated engine or blown transmission.
3. Replace your windshield wipers.
Don’t wait until you’re caught in a summer downpour to find out your wipers aren’t working well. Winter can take a toll on wipers, and it’s a $25 fix to replace them. You can also get wiper refills – which just replace the worn rubber – for half the cost of new blades.
4. Switch out your tires and check the tread.
If you have winter tires, change them. The compounds used in winter tires are softer, which helps them grip better in ice and snow. But they also wear down more quickly in summer heat. You need plenty of tread in the summer, when sudden showers create slippery roads.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association suggests several ways to check the tread. Tires have built-in “wear bars,” or narrow strips of rubber across the tires that appear when the tread is worn down to one-sixteenth of an inch. If you can see wear bars, your tires need to be replaced.
You can also use the old penny trick: Stick a penny in the tread. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace the tire.
Consider a tire rotation in the summer to make sure your tires wear equally. Tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 10,000 miles, according to vehicle information site Edmunds.com.
5. Check your tire pressure.
Overinflated tires have less traction on rainy streets, while underinflated tires can bulge out, putting pressure on the sidewalls and making the tires more vulnerable to blowouts. Check your tire pressure before you start driving, and make sure you’re meeting the manufacturer’s recommended level. You can buy a tire gauge for $5 or less, or a digital pressure gauge for $25, and keep it in the glove compartment.