I just bought my first car in the spring and I’m about to go on a bunch of summer road trips. Is there anything I need to do to make my car ready for the heat? – Jenn, Kelowna, B.C.
Summertime, and the livin’ is easy for you and your car – as long as you check oil, coolant levels and tire pressure, says a car repair expert.
Cars need summerizing just like they need winterizing, according to Stephen Leroux, a professor with the school of transportation at Centennial College in Toronto.
“There are more than a few areas that should get attention for summer driving, especially before a long trip,” Leroux says.
First, oil needs to be checked regularly before any longer journey. Top it up if needed. It isn’t just for lubrication – it cools the engine. Leroux advises checking your owner’s manual to see what grade of oil to use for the summer, though “most manufacturers today recommend the same oil all year round,” he says.
Next is engine coolant – it needs to be inspected to make sure you have the right kind for your vehicle, levels are topped up and it is strong enough.
“Many vehicle owners refer to engine coolant as ‘anti-freeze’, but providing protection from freezing is only half of the coolant’s job,” Leroux says.
It’s always mixed with water, and if you have too much water and not enough coolant, the engine will run hotter than it should and could overheat.
Leroux says you should check your owner’s manual to see what kind of coolant is recommended and what the ratio of water to coolant should be.
You should have coolant inspected when you get an oil change, for example, or you can test the ratio of coolant to water yourself with a coolant tester, says Deanna Sclar, author of Auto Repair for Dummies, in a post on dummies.com.
Generally, coolant should be changed if you haven’t changed it in a year or in the past 32,000 km, Sclar says. Also, you should have at least a 50/50 ratio of coolant to water – if you have less than 50 per cent coolant, it needs to be changed.
Driving with the air conditioner on causes the engine to run hotter, so it’s vital to make sure oil and coolant levels are where they should be.
Tires also need special attention in the summer. Leroux says they need to be checked for proper inflation and any signs of abnormal or excessive wear.
“Some people may think that a tire tread is only needed to provide traction in snow, and that would be a mistake,” Leroux says. “Tires are required to provide traction in all types of conditions and temperatures; that’s why there is a temperature rating on the side wall.”
The air inside tires contracts and expands as temperature changes, so tires need to be kept at the correct pressure – if it’s too high or too low, the tires could distort, he says.
And winter tires are meant for winter only – drive them on hot summer roads and the rubber will degrade.
“Many dealerships and service centres advertise summer check-ups where they inspect these and other systems,” says Leroux.
"If you plan on taking long family trips, it could be money well spent to ensure care-free driving in the summer months."
Do you have any tips of your own? The comments section awaits. If you have any driving queries for Jason, send him a message at email@example.com or contact him through Twitter: @JasonTchir