By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Have you ever been on a summer road trip and some unexpected – and unpleasant – surprise puts a crimp in your plans?
Maybe the air-conditioner went out or a tire went flat. Perhaps the battery died or your car or truck overheated.
It’s not fun, and repairs can get expensive.
But experts say many worries can be allayed simply by taking care of your vehicle before any worst-case scenario becomes a reality.
“There are two ways of looking at it,” said Jay Robertson, owner of Tom’s Automotive. “First, the vehicle is on a maintenance schedule set by the manufacturer. But not everybody keeps up with it.”
The schedule is the best way to make sure your vehicle keeps running, he said.
One issue he’s seen crop up is auto manufacturers not honoring vehicle warranties because the owners didn’t follow the recommended service schedule.
“I’ve seen it happen several times,” he said.
By sticking to the vehicle’s maintenance schedule, drivers shouldn’t have to worry whether their car, van or truck is ready for summer or winter, Robertson said.
Every few thousand miles, certain systems and components are checked. Following the service intervals should keep vehicles in prime operating condition.
But Robertson knows many people don’t follow those schedules religiously.
With the popularity of summer road trips, Robertson recommended several key areas to check on your vehicle before starting your adventure:
Tires – These are most affected by heat. If your vehicle’s tires are more than six years old, it’s time to replace them.
“Even if the tires have good treads, the UV rays will break down the compounds in the tires,” Robertson said. “It’s like they’re rotting from the inside-out.”
Many of the shredded tire pieces thrown by large trucks on the highways are the result of tires worn out from the heat and UV rays, he said.
“Low tire pressure also breaks down tires faster, especially with a heavy load.”
Batteries – They fail in heat as well as cold. According to AAA, summer heat can have a more negative impact on a vehicle’s battery than freezing winter temperatures.
“Heat and vibration are a battery’s worst enemies, leading to internal breakdown and eventual failure,” AAA says.
At Tom’s and at other auto mechanics’ shops, the battery typically is checked at every oil and filter change.
Batteries should be checked frequently, especially if they’re more than three years old.
“We can test early and see what capacity is left,” Robertson said.
Cabin air filters – The engine oil filter needs to be changed regularly, but sometimes the cabin air filter is overlooked or ignored.
A clean cabin air filter will help keep air flowing, and can affect the temperature coming out of the vents by 5 degrees or more.
According to AAA, if a car’s air conditioning is not maintaining the interior temperature as well as it once did, it may mean the refrigerant level is low or there is another problem. The system should be checked by a certified technician.
Other tips from AAA
Keep your engine cool. Cooling systems protect engines from overheating and should be flushed periodically, as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Between flushes, make sure the coolant is filled to the proper level by checking the overflow reservoir. If necessary, top off the reservoir with a 50/50 mix of water and the coolant type specified by the vehicle manufacturer.
Make sure fluids are at appropriate levels. Most engine fluids lubricate and serve as coolants by helping carry heat away from critical components. When fluid levels are low, the cooling effect is reduced, which increases the possibility of overheating. Periodically check all vehicle fluids, including motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid, to ensure they are at appropriate levels. If any fluids need to be topped off, be sure to use the type of fluid specified in the owner’s manual.
Be prepared for summer breakdowns. Even with preventive maintenance, summer breakdowns can still occur, so AAA recommends drivers have a well-stocked emergency kit in their cars. The kit should include water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, road flares or an emergency beacon, basic hand tools and a first-aid kit.