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Beating the Heat: Essential Summer Car Care Tips

Summer throws a lot at your car. Scorching sun, blistering asphalt, and extreme temperatures can wreak havoc on your vehicle if you're not prepared.  But fear not, fellow car enthusiast! With some proactive maintenance and a few smart habits, you can keep your car running smoothly and protect it from the harsh summer elements.

Keeping Your Cool: Engine and Fluids

Fluid Fundamentals: Your car relies on a network of fluids to function properly. Engine oil, coolant, brake fluid, and power steering fluid all play crucial roles in keeping your car cool and lubricated.  Summer heat can cause these fluids to break down or evaporate faster.  Make it a priority to check your fluid levels regularly,  referring to your owner's manual for recommended intervals and specifications. Don't forget to top them up if necessary, using only the fluids recommended by your car's manufacturer.

Cooling System Check-Up: The cooling system is your car's defense against overheating.  Before the summer heat sets in, schedule a professional inspection of your radiator, hoses, and thermostat. A clogged radiator or a faulty thermostat can lead to engine overheating, causing serious damage. Consider replacing coolant hoses that show signs of cracking or wear, and ensure your coolant is at the proper level and mixture for optimal performance.

Oil Change Essentials: Hot weather puts extra strain on your engine oil.  Regular oil changes are crucial throughout the year, but especially important in summer.  Consult your owner's manual to determine the recommended oil type and change intervals for your car.  Consider using a synthetic oil, which offers better heat resistance compared to conventional oil.


Tire Talk: Maintaining Grip and Pressure

Pressure Matters: Extreme heat can cause tire pressure to fluctuate.  Underinflated tires not only reduce fuel efficiency but also increase the risk of blowouts. Check your tire pressure regularly, ideally once a week, when the tires are cold (not driven for at least three hours).  Always refer to the placard on the driver's door jamb for the recommended tire pressure for your car. Don't forget to check the spare tire as well!

Tread Depth: Hot weather can exacerbate existing tread wear.  Ensure your tires have sufficient tread depth to maintain proper traction, especially during sudden downpours that can be common in summer.  Refer to your owner's manual or consult a tire professional to determine the minimum safe tread depth for your car.  Replace worn-out tires to ensure optimal safety and performance.

Sun's Not Kind: Direct sunlight can damage your tires, causing cracks and premature wear.  Park your car in a shaded area whenever possible.  If shade isn't available, consider using tire covers to shield them from the sun's harmful rays.


Interior IQ: Beating the Heat Inside

Sun Protection for Passengers (and Interiors): The scorching sun can turn your car's interior into an oven.  Use windshield sunshades to block sunlight and reduce interior temperatures. Window visors can also help with ventilation. Consider investing in high-quality window tinting to further shield passengers and the interior from harmful UV rays.

Leather Care:  Leather seats can crack and fade under intense sunlight.  Use a leather conditioner with UV protectants to keep your leather seats supple and prevent them from drying out.

Electronic Safeguards: Extreme heat can damage electronic components within your car. Park in the shade whenever possible. Avoid leaving electronic devices like smartphones or navigation systems in direct sunlight on the dashboard.


Extra Summer Smarts: Maintenance and Habits

Battery Blues:  Heat can shorten a battery's lifespan. Have your battery tested before the summer heat arrives.  Clean the battery terminals to ensure a good connection and prevent corrosion.

Wiper Check: Summer often brings unexpected downpours. Ensure your windshield wipers are in good condition and replace them if they show signs of streaking or cracking. Keeping a spare set of wiper blades in your car is a wise precaution.

Air Conditioning TLC: Your air conditioner is your best friend in the summer. Schedule a pre-season check-up to ensure it's functioning optimally.  Replace the cabin air filter regularly, as a clogged filter can reduce airflow and cooling efficiency. 

Parking Smarts: Always park in the shade whenever possible. This not only protects your car's paint from fading but also keeps the interior cooler.

Emergency Kit Essentials: Summer can bring unexpected breakdowns.  Ensure your emergency kit is well-stocked with essentials like coolant, jumper cables, a flashlight, and a first-aid kit. Consider including a tire pressure gauge and a portable air compressor for those roadside emergencies.

TopGear Magazine June 2024