With the grueling months of summer bearing down upon us the time has come to get your dependable daily driver ready to hit the hot blacktop. As the balmy days of June give way to the blazing dog days of July and August, your trusty steed will need every system in prime working order more than any other time of the year. So, pull out your old coveralls and climb under the hood as we run through your summertime checklist.
Tire pressure and condition are among the most important factors on your checklist. The searing temperatures found on the surface of your local interstate highway can wreak havoc on your tires if they are not carefully maintained. Virtually any auto parts store sells a basic tire pressure gauge that you can use to check one of the most important things about your tires – the air pressure. Look at the tire sidewall to determine manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure, and then fill your tires with air accordingly. Most car tires will range from 35 to 44-psi and truck tires can be as great as 80-psi. The maximum tire pressure and load capacity are found stamped on the tire sidewall, near the bead. The lettering can be terribly small but a flashlight will help. Once the tires have been inflated properly, you should examine the tread for uneven wear. Choppy or uneven tread can indicate under inflation or worn out shocks or struts. Excessive wear on the edge of the tread indicates a degree of toe-in that is out of adjustment. In addition to checking proper inflation and tire wear, note any odd vibrations and/or noises that may occur while operating your vehicle. A separated tire or bent wheel can easily escalate to a blown out tire with the potential to create a motor vehicle collision.
Checking under the hood of your car or truck can help you to prevent a huge problem by detecting a small condition. Begin by performing a visual inspection of all belts and hoses, including vacuum hoses. Pay careful attention to cracking on the ribs of the belt, as well as distortions or discoloration on the back of the belt/s. Replacing a worn out belt before it breaks can mean the difference between a small and inexpensive repair and a catastrophic repair. Look for fluid leaks, loose bolts and brackets, bare or broken wiring, and battery corrosion. Coolant hoses should be soft and pliable with a feeling of consistency. Hoses that bulge inexplicitly or feel unduly soft and “gummy” should be replaced immediately. Check between the radiator and a/c condenser for excessive debris. Leaves, straw, and debris that is swept up between these two key cooling components can render you engine cooling ineffective and diminish a/c cooling capabilities, as well. Check all fluids including: Engine oil, automatic transmission fluid, power steering fluid, engine coolant, brake fluid, clutch fluid (if so equipped). All fluids should be changed at proper intervals. Here is a typical maintenance schedule:
- Engine Oil – Every 3,000-miles or three months.
- Automatic Transmission Fluid- Every 30,000-miles (with a complete transmission flush rotated in every other service).
- Manual Transmission Fluid- Every 100,000-miles or clutch replacement.
- Engine Coolant- Annually.
- Rear Differential Fluid- Every 30,000-miles.
- Brake Fluid and Power Steering Fluid- Every 100,000-miles or when fluid becomes excessively darkened.
In addition to mechanical defects, other maintenance items should be addressed before the rigors of summer take us by storm. If it is this hot outside, imagine how scorching it is inside you engine’s combustion chambers. If your engine is overdue for a maintenance tune-up (including spark plugs, plug wires, distributor cap and rotor button, PCV, air filter, and fuel filter) then the heat of summer will make it manifest. Change those spark plugs and other tune up parts before an inexpensive maintenance item leaves you stranded on the highway. Remember that your fuel filter should be changed every 30,000-miles.