With the summer well on its way, it’s easy to neglect routine maintenance on your car, but it is just as important now as in the depths of winter. Having your car coming to an abrupt halt on the side of a hot road can be just as frustrating – and potentially dangerous – as having it happen in winter.
In a world which is starting to feel the effects of slowly increasing temperatures, the intensity of the summer months can be far more profound than those of the latter months as we experience milder, though wetter, winters. Summer, by comparison, can be intensely hot, dry, and accompanied by harmful bursts of sunshine, so you definitely need to get ready for such weather for the safety and comfort of you as a driver and your passengers.
Taking care of car coolants
One of the main issues for summer driving is ensuring that your car’s cooling system is up to the job. Despite decades of development, most car engines are surprisingly inefficient at turning chemical energy into mechanical energy and end up generating a huge amount of waste heat. That heat has to be taken away to prevent the car overheating and normally uses a system that pumps water around the metal engine via a radiator to expel excess heat to the environment. This heat can only be effectively removed if the system is in good condition and the coolant clean and fresh.
A car’s cooling system typically never runs on pure water, but is rather a mix of antifreeze and water. Constant evolution of this alcohol-based liquid has led to it becoming a summer coolant as well as a winter one so there is now no need to remove it in summer as this used to be the case. However, it is good practice to periodically clean through and change the whole system, and spring is a good time to do this.
Keeping an eye on tyres
While rubber tyres are hard wearing, increased air and road temperatures will make them softer and increase wear significantly. What might look like lots of tread in the spring can soon diminish with hard tread wear on a hot road so they need to be checked regularly. In Ireland, the current legal limit for tyres is a minimum depth of the tread of 1.6 mm.
Even when you already invested in good summer tyres, you need to always ensure that your tyres are well above the legal limit and check them regularly. You should also keep a regular eye on tyre pressures too, bearing in mind that increased temperatures will increase the measured pressure so ensure that you don’t end up with over-inflated tyres in very hot temperatures.
Car air conditioning in good condition
The air conditioning operation depends upon the gas pressure and will start to fail as pressure drops. Many garages and car-repair centres offer a free system of pressure checking with a relatively small charge to re-gas the system. It is always worth having this checked in the spring for summer operation.
All round vision
Summer means lots of flies and airborne bugs that you will invariably drive through. Many of these will explode on your windscreen and reduce your ability to see properly. The build-up of bug-bits is inevitable, so you will need the means to make sure you can clean the screen regularly.
In springtime, you should check your windscreen washers for operation and ensure that your cleaning reservoir is topped up with the appropriate mix of clean water and special windscreen-washing detergent.
Crystal clear screens
Before setting off on a journey, it’s always good practice to make sure that you have clean glasswork, so always go around your glass with some dedicated cleaner or a little vinegar in water. Wipe off with a clean cloth for smear-free vision.
The same goes for those cars which have washers for headlights, as reduced lighting efficiency can be a serious problem at night too. And while you are at it, don’t forget the rear-window washers too as just because it’s behind you, doesn’t mean that it isn’t important and you need to have good vision there as well.
Finally, all that washing liquid is pretty useless without having fully functioning wipers, so they need to be checked and replaced regularly. Look for cracks in the rubber as well as actual splits along the blades, as these can progress quickly.
Essential Repair Items
At any time of year, you should ensure that you have a number of basic repair items packed in and these are just as important in summer as they are in winter. These include:
- Wheel-replacement jack
- Spanner to remove wheel nuts
- Spare bulb kit
- Spare wheel in good condition.
- A small fire extinguisher.
Summer means more cars on the road and an increase in queuing. That means hotter cars and an increased possibility of engine fire. While most car fires are caused by electrical faults, those type of faults are more prevalent in the summer.
Engines get hot, electrical insulation starts to break down and electrical resistance decreases. While car fires are, thankfully, rare, it is always best to be ready for this kind of eventuality and pack a fire extinguisher.
With that said, if you do experience an engine fire, you need to get everyone out and only tackle a fire if it is safe for you to do so. Otherwise call the emergency service and sit back, obviously with lots of sun cream on.