4 Car Care Tips for Summer and Hot Weather
While we tend to associate winter and cold temperatures with vehicle problems (dead battery, thickened fluids, tire deflation, etc.), scorching summer weather can be equally ruthless to your car if you’re not careful. To that end, it’s best to stay informed about mechanical issues that tend to pop up in the summer. That way, you can take action beforehand to prevent any car-related issues from putting a damper on your summer.
Topping off this list is weak battery. While it may seem counterintuitive, summer climates actually pose a bigger threat to your car’s battery life than winter climates. For that, you can point to the excess heat and humidity as culprits. They force your battery to work harder to produce the same net output. In the short-term, your battery’s efficiency is compromised, while long-term you’re looking at a much shorter battery lifespan.
In this case, knowledge is truly power. Knowing the age of your battery can make all the difference between life and premature battery death. Typically, batteries have a lifespan of anywhere from 3 to 5 years, so if you’re anywhere near that threshold as summer approaches, get to a mechanic and ask about a replacement battery.
Not surprisingly, the likelihood of your car overheating exponentiates in summer temperatures. However, it’s not just due to the heat itself; a faulty cooling system may also be at play, causing your car to work harder than normal. The result is an overheated and/or failing engine.
The best way to avoid car overheating is to limit or eliminate exposure to outside heat. Parking indoors or in the shade is preferable in summer months. Another preventative measure you can take is to check your fluids regularly, specifically your coolant, as your A/C will be active a lot more often during this time. If you’re low on fluids, get them replaced right away. Last, if you find fluid leaks on the underside of your car, enlist the help of a mechanic immediately.
As temperatures rise, tire air pressure also increases. In fact, for every 10-degree jump in temperature, tire pressure will increase by one pound per square inch (PSI). Why is this? Your tires have air inside them. And inside that air is a bunch of molecules. Without getting too technical, when molecules heat up they start to vibrate faster and faster. This vibration ultimately causes expansion of the air, i.e. over-inflated tires. Tires that are too pumped up are then more prone to issues that result in a blow-out.
First, understand proper tire pressure metrics and how to gauge them. You can go to an any auto shop and have them instruct you. Then make sure to check your tires more frequently in summer months—try at least once a month, or even more especially if you live in a very hot area. If your tires are under, add air at a gas station machine. If they’re over, you can release air by first removing the tire’s valve stem, then placing the tip of a flat-head screwdriver over the top of the metal pin inside the stem and pushing it inward. Doing so will release air.
In times of extreme heat, your A/C serves as your car's great equalizer. Unless, of course, it breaks, which isn’t uncommon due to how much harder your A/C has to work during summer to keep you cool. There are 3 common reasons for a defective A/C: low or no Freon coolant liquid, jammed or debris-filled refrigerant, or a leak that’s allowing the cool air to escape elsewhere before it reaches you.
Since examining your A/C requires a deeper dive into your car’s components, it’s best to have a mechanic take a look at it. Try to do this before summer begins. Then, as best as you can, avoid driving when temperatures are peaking; wait until it cools down a smidge if possible. Also, try to avoid straining your A/C too much; as with everything else in life, too much strain will result in an accelerated breakdown time.
Guard against summertime breakdowns
Enacting the above preventative measures will drastically reduce the likelihood of summertime breakdowns in your car. However, if for some reason your vehicle does experience a mechanical issue or failure, know that you don’t have to brave those repair costs alone.
Vehicle Service Contracts (VSC) exist to protect you against covered auto repair bills, which can quickly add up as your car is subjected more and more to sweltering heat. So as the sun begins to scorch this summer, you may want to think about covering your vehicle, not just with shade, but also with a VSC plan to safeguard against potential breakdowns, repairs, and replacements.