Summer Car Maintenance: Your Car Needs You Now More Than Ever

Did you know summer can be just as harsh on your car as winter? Equip yourself with these summer car maintenance tips to keep things running smoothly.

Summer Car Maintenance Tips

Summer’s almost here! And that means it’s time to swap out the snow tires and give the heater a much-needed vacation.

But just because the extreme cold is over doesn’t mean your car’s safe from the elements. In fact, the heat can be just as harsh as the cold. And everyone knows an overheated engine or broken AC can spoil a summer road trip.

Thankfully, with a little prep work, you can keep your car running smoothly all summer long. Below is a checklist of summer car maintenance tips. Some you can do on your own, but others are probably best left to your trusted mechanic.

And a big thanks to our friends at Sparefoot (who offer car-storage services around the country) for providing some great tips for our list!

Summer car maintenance that you can do

You don’t have to leave all the fun to the experts. If you’re a DIY-er, you can do this stuff on your own:

1. Check your oil

Oil helps keep your engine lubricated, which reduces friction (and heat buildup) under your hood. During the summer, when your engine is more likely to overheat, it’s going to want as much lubrication as it can get.

But checking your oil is super easy. And if you’re low, adding more oil is easy too. Just don’t confuse adding oil with changing oil. You should still get an oil change every 5,000 miles or so.

2. Heck, check all your fluids

If you remember back to high school chemistry, heat causes liquid to evaporate. And all those fluids in your car have very important jobs to do, like lubricating and cooling.

Topping off your fluids at the start of the summer can help you avoid overheating. If you’re unsure about which fluids to use or how much to add, ask your mechanic for help.

3. Inspect your tires

As outside temperatures fluctuate, so does tire pressure — cold temperatures cause tire pressure to drop while hot temperatures cause it to increase.

So, first things first: make sure your tires are properly inflated. You can usually find your tire’s recommended PSI (pounds per square inch) in your owner’s manual or on your driver’s side door. To ensure an accurate measurement, always make sure you haven’t driven for at least 3 hours.

Keep in mind that improper inflation can affect your car’s handling. Underinflated tires are especially problematic because they tend to lower your gas mileage and wear down quicker. In more extreme cases, the combination of heat and low pressure can cause your tire to blow.

Also, check your tires for damage and wear. Hot roads can intensify heat buildup and cause weak tires to weaken even faster, especially if they’re not properly inflated.

4. Wash and wax your car

Keeping your car shiny and clean may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it can actually save you from major costs down the road. Dirt and dust scratch away at your car’s top coat … you know, the one that protects the paint from fading and peeling in the sun.

Paint damage is more than just unsightly, though — it can actually be damaging to your car’s structure. When paint peels away, it leaves your car susceptible to rust.

If you don’t drive often, you may want to consider covering your car. A cover will protect it from sun and other corrosives like sap and bird poop, which get even more corrosive in the heat.

Summer car maintenance that the mechanic should do

Unless you know your way around an engine, it’s best to leave some of the more technical stuff to the experts. When you make your appointment, be prepared with a specific summer checklist:

1. Get a radiator checkup

A winter of salted roads can eat away at your radiator’s core, which can lead to leakage and, ultimately, an overheated engine.

The mechanic can check for damage and clogs (a clogged radiator makes it harder for coolant to pass through) and flush your cooling system if necessary.

2. Check your battery

If you live in cold weather, you’ve probably experienced a dead battery more than once. But did you know the heat can pack a pretty mean punch too? Heat causes battery fluid to evaporate, which can lead to corrosion.

If it’s been a while since you bought your last battery, ask the mechanic to give it a look.

3. Put your AC to the test

It’s so much better to find out your air conditioning needs a tweak before the temperature becomes unbearable. If your AC feels weak, it could be blocked or need more Freon.

While you may be tempted to save the money and just roll down the windows, consider this: the belt that’s powering your air conditioner may also be powering other parts of your engine. In fact, ignoring a weak AC could actually cause your engine to overheat.

Be prepared

If you do experience an overheated engine or a blown tire, being prepared can help you get through these situations a lot more smoothly. Take advantage of that big old storage space in your trunk to carry these items:

  • Extra coolant (aka antifreeze): a 50/50 mix of coolant and water is your car’s preferred summer cocktail
  • Extra water: to mix with the coolant (and to drink if you get stranded for a while)
  • A spare tire: even better if it’s full sized
  • An emergency kit

Take Fuelcaster™ on your road trip too

Before you hit the road this summer, make sure you’re equipped with Fuelcaster — the gas price predictor™. This website predicts whether gas prices are expected to rise or fall tomorrow. That way, you can decide whether it’s better to fill up today or wait. If you need gas pronto, it can also help you navigate to the closest gas stations with the cheapest gas. Another great way to get ready for summer!

Related links

Did you know summer is also car theft season?

Get better mileage this summer with these tips.

Stock your glove box with these summer must-haves.

6 Responses to “Summer Car Maintenance: Your Car Needs You Now More Than Ever”

  1. Avatar for Jessica Guerin
    June 24, 2014 #

    Great tips Jessica. Particularly agree that it's wise to get the AC checked out as a weak system could leak gases and cause some serious damage to a car

  2. Avatar for Jessica Guerin
    Turley Car & Truck Pty Ltd
    February 6, 2015 #

    That’s a catchy title. Nice! Yes, we should give our cars some tender loving care if we want them to serve us well — especially for those long road trips to reach our summer holiday destinations.

  3. Avatar for Jessica Guerin
    Bill Penn
    July 24, 2015 #

    Thanks for the tips. Just a quick not, if the car is 1995 or newer, it doesn't use Freon in the air conditioning system (environmentally unfriendly). The refrigerant in newer cars is R-134. Also, most auto parts stores will check your battery/charging system for free, and tire stores will check your air pressure and inspect all your tires (even the spare) for no charge.

  4. Avatar for Jessica Guerin
    Bill Penn
    July 24, 2015 #

    A typo in my comment: Should have said "note."

  5. Avatar for Jessica Guerin
    Elizabeth Hernandez
    July 28, 2015 #

    Going to have my daughter read this before she gets her licenses good tips…

  6. Avatar for Jessica Guerin
    Martha @ Auto Title Pros
    April 24, 2016 #

    This stuff is still very relevant! And its very true that salt will really eat up your car's underside, if you haven't done a complete under carriage washing , spring is the time!

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