50 Summer Car Tips For Your Vehicle’s Health and Your Sanity (Ultimate Car Care Guide)
The summer road trip is a quintessential part of American life. Whether you are having a beach side barbecue, going on a fishing trip in the countryside, or just driving down the road for a family gathering, it is important to make sure that you are taking care of your car while you do it. Even a simple flat tire can be enough to ruin what could otherwise be a great weekend, so we’ve put together a list of 50 best tips on how to keep your car in good shape this summer, so that you’re spending less time in the shop and more time enjoying your road trips.
The most important part of making sure you have a good trip is to prepare for it beforehand, which is also true of your car. Both Firestone and AutoTrader car care experts recommend that you go over all of your car’s key systems before you head out. Our first batch of tips gives you a list of everything that you should check over before you start your journey.
- When was the car’s oil and filter last changed? If it has been a while since your last oil change, your vehicle could run hotter than usual or lose power – both big problems when you are out in the sun with a car full of people and gear.
- Are the car’s fluids topped off? Replacing your car’s steering or braking fluid can be next to impossible outside of a well-equipped garage, so any problems there can quickly derail your trip.
- How is the tire pressure? A quick walk around the car with a pressure gauge won’t take more than a few minutes, but can save you hours waiting for a tow later.
- Is your steering properly aligned? If your car pulls a little in one direction as you drive, or your steering wheel is not quite straight, it can be a sign of an alignment issue.
- How is your car’s battery health? Car batteries can be sensitive to heat, so you don’t want to come back to a dead battery after a day in the sun.
- Have you had your brakes checked? Slow pedal response, strange noises or just a while since the last check up all mean that you should bring your car in for a quick brake check.
- Is your cooling system working? Summer heat and a dead A/C are just a terrible combination. Avoid it by checking your coolant level, making sure hoses are firm and not leaking and testing the A/C itself regularly.
- Is the serpentine belt in good shape? Look it over for any cracks or unusual wear patterns before you head out on a long drive.
- Do your windshield wipers work well? Between dirt, sand, dust and even the occasional rain, your windshield wipers keep your visibility at 100%, and if they aren’t working, you are driving blind.
- How does your air filter look? A dirty or clogged air filter doesn’t just affect your car’s performance, but can also make life inside the car a touch less comfortable.
- Did you pack a sunshade? Coming back to a sweltering hot car is no one’s idea of a good time. It is always good to pack a sunshade, just in case you are stuck parking in direct sunlight.
- Is the car clean? A dirty car not only looks bad, but it can also be more susceptible to environmental damage.
- Do you have a travel plan? While a quick trip to the in-laws’ may not require a detailed step-by-step plan, it can be good to check your proposed route for any new construction or accidents before you set out. For trips to less well-known places, a paper map is a must in case you lose reception or your phone runs out of battery.
- Are the creature comforts taken care of? Keeping everyone happy is the key to a successful road trip. That means water, snacks, music, coffee and anything else you and your passenger’s will need on the trip.
Maintaining good tire pressure is so important, especially in the summer months, that we’ve devoted an entire section of this article to a few good tire maintenance habits. Tire pressure can change quickly as a result of temperature fluctuations, which summer often brings, so it is important to keep your car’s tires as healthy as possible.
- Check tire pressure in the morning. As air heats up, it expands and, in a closed environment like a car tire, becomes more pressurized. Making it a habit to check tire pressure in the morning avoids you driving on under-inflated tires when it is cold out.
- Don’t overinflate your tires. The numbers written on the side of your tires are the maximum recommended amount for that tire, but optimal tire pressure depends on a lot of other factors as well. Check your car’s user manual for the best pressure for your car model and driving style.
- Make a tire check schedule. By checking your tires regularly, you can often catch problems well before they become an issue. Set aside a few minutes in the morning every couple of weeks and stick to that schedule in order to maintain your tires in their best condition.
- Keep an eye on the spare tire. Hopefully, you will never need your spare tire, but in case you do, you should keep it at proper inflation as well. Don’t forget to include it in your routine tire pressure check, and top it up as needed.
Cars produce a lot of heat, and with the sun adding its own energy into the mix, summertime can be a perfect recipe for an overheating car. In addition to putting an embarrassing stop to a fun trip, overheating can also do a lot of damage to your car’s engine and other components. We’ve asked some experts for tips on how to avoid overheating your car this summer and brought you the tips.
- Take care of your coolant. Coolant is a fluid that keeps all of your car’s excess heat from staying in the engine and damaging it. Over time, coolant, just like oil, can get dirty and break down, which reduces its effectiveness. Regular coolant system flushes keep your coolant clean and functioning at full effectiveness, helping you avoid overheating.
- Add some antifreeze to your coolant mix. Antifreeze helps your car in the summer as well as winter. It raises the boiling point of water, which means it can carry away more heat from the engine, making your cooling system more efficient.
- Check for leaks. If you are finding your coolant levels decreasing quickly over time, you might have a leak in one of the hoses or clamps. A slow leak can sneak up on you when you least expect it, so regularly checking coolant levels is important in diagnosing the problem.
- Make sure the fan is working. The big fan at the front of your engine compartment is what’s responsible for cooling your vehicle. If it is loose, there is fluid leaking or the fan belt is worn or damaged, the fan could become a source of cooling issues later.
- Keep an eye on your oil. As already mentioned, keeping your engine well-lubricated with motor oil keeps it from generating too much extra heat. To avoid that, make sure you get your oil changed regularly.
- Make sure your thermostat works. The thermostat regulates the flow of water into the radiator. If it is stuck open or closed, your cooling system will have some serious problems. You can test it at home, or let us check it out for you.
- Is the radiator cap on at the right tightness? Not tight enough, and the coolant can evaporate. Too tight, and the radiator can crack under pressure and leak coolant.
- Is the temperature gauge correct? The only way you know how hot your engine gets is via the gauge on your instrument cluster. It is important to test it against another thermometer every once in awhile to make sure it is correct.
- Keep your car’s other systems in good shape. A car’s health is really a holistic endeavor – a problem with one component can also affect other systems. That is why a thorough mechanical check is always a good idea when you are getting your car summer-ready.
A car’s electricals can be a source of many problems that are hard to catch. Here are some tips that mechanics recommend to help keep your car’s electrical systems from giving you trouble this summer.
- Keep your battery and alternator healthy. With all the juice that is flowing through those two components, they can wear down pretty quickly, so make sure to replace them when it is time.
- Do a regular A/C service. Air conditioning is tied into a lot of other systems, including your car’s electronics. A regular service should easily locate any malfunctions.
- Check the ignition. If your car takes a few attempts to start or makes unusual noises when it does, you could have some ignition issues. Some new components are often the solution.
Being too hot is not only bad for cars, but can be pretty hard on people as well. Here we have some tips that will make your car a much more comfortable place to be in for the travel portion of your summer getaways.
- Try to park in the shade. It may seem like obvious advice, but parking in a covered space or even under a tree could make a big difference in how warm your car’s interior gets.
- Use your sun shade. A sun shade will reflect a lot of the sun’s rays out of the car, keeping it from heating up too much. Just make sure to remember to put it up.
- Cover the exterior. A car cover is a great way to bring some shade with you if you can’t find a nice covered parking spot.
- Cover the interior. Many of the materials in car interiors are dark and absorb heat easily. Cover them up with blankets or towels and they won’t get nearly as warm.
- Pack things away. Toys, electronics and food can be damaged by direct sunlight, and can add an unwelcome smell to a warm car.
- Take a moment before getting back in. Let the car air out and the A/C run for a few minutes before getting everyone inside and on the road again. It will make a huge difference.
A convertible is really the best kind of car for enjoying summer, but a retractable top can mean a few additional steps necessary to keep it in the best summer shape possible.
- Clean it regularly. The top of a convertible is more susceptible to sun damage if it is dirty, so regular cleaning is important.
- Apply protective treatment. Soft convertible tops are not as resistant to the elements as a car’s sheet metal, and so they need help from protective treatments to look their best.
- Don’t store it with the top down. When the convertible top is all bunched up inside the car, it can develop unsightly creases and wear away faster. Keep the top up for long-term storage.
- Dry it off before folding. If the top is wet when you put it down, it can develop mold or water damage.
The beach is a favorite summer destination, which means lots of sand everywhere.
- Shake out everything. Bags, pockets, even hair can trap lots of sand, but a simple shake should get most of it out.
- Use a trunk liner. It makes it so much easier to gather up all the sand and toss it out.
- Try a mesh bag. Mesh bags don’t have as much space for sand to get stuck on, which means less of it can make it into your car.
- Keep a brush. A soft-bristled brush can easily get sand off of your body before its time to get in the car.
- Bag it up. If something is covered in a lot of sand that is hard to get off, just wrap it in a plastic bag and deal with it when you get home.
After a summer season full of fun and adventure, your car is bound to show some signs of wear and tear. Here is some advice on how to get it back into shape at the end of the summer so that you can have just as much fun with it next year.
- Have the right equipment. You’ll need cloth to use as applicators, a vacuum, cleaning solutions right for your car and a nice big space to work in.
- Start from the interior. You will be in and out of the car while cleaning the interior, and can just shut all the doors and windows when you are done, so it is easier to clean inside, then out.
- Work in a shady area. Working in the summer during the day, it is easy to have your car’s exterior dry unevenly and require multiple washes to get right. Working in a covered are makes it easier.
- Pay attention to the details. Be sure to clean the tires, get the spots out of windows and don’t ignore little chrome or bezeled bits.
- Go back to the beginning. Once the car is looking great again, go back to the start-of-season checklist at the beginning of the article and make a plan for doing it again at the start of next season. You will thank yourself for doing it next summer.
Keep Your Car Out of the Shop and on the Road
There is a lot to think about when it comes to keeping your car in top summer shape all season, from electrical components to the engine, A/C and more. Luckily, you have a great team ready to help supply you with the repair parts you need. Call one of our 5 locations or order your car and truck parts and accessories at our auto parts supply store online!