More vehicles break down in summer than any other season.
For all of summer’s charms, it’s a tough time to be a car, with the heat and sun greatly affecting performance and appearance. Here are six common meltdowns—and summer car-care tips to help prevent them.
Why it happens: The cooling system protects the engine from overheating, but over time the coolant becomes contaminated and its protective additives get depleted. Without proper maintenance, the odds of long-term engine damage—and a summer boil over—increase.
How to prevent it: Cooling systems should have a fluid exchange periodically. Between exchanges, be sure the coolant is filled by checking the overflow reservoir once the engine is cold. If it needs topping off, use a 50/50 mix of water and coolant. Inspect rubber parts such as hoses and belts for cracks, soft spots or other signs of troublesome wear.
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Why it happens: Summer heat is harder on a car battery than the frigid weather of winter. High temperatures can more quickly evaporate your battery fluid, leading to corrosion on terminals and connections.
How to prevent it: Keep the terminals and cable clamps free of corrosive buildup and the clamps tight. If your battery is more than three years old, have it professionally tested to see how much life is left. When in doubt, have it replaced—it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Why it happens: Driving on under-inflated tires can cause tires to overheat and increases the likelihood of a blowout. This problem becomes even more concerning on hot roads.
How to prevent it: Three key summer car-care tips for your tires—once a month, check the pressure, measure tread depth and look for uneven wear. Don’t forget your spare! Always follow pressure recommendations found in your vehicle owner’s manual—on the label in the glove box or the driver’s doorjamb, not the numbers on the tire sidewall.
Why it happens: Engine fluids not only lubricate but also cool by drawing heat from critical parts. When fluid levels are low, this cooling effect is reduced, and the possibility of overheating increases.
How to prevent it: Make sure all fluids are appropriately filled, including motor oil as well as transmission, power steering and brake fluids. If you need to add fluid, use the type specified in the owner’s manual (or seek expert help).
Why it happens: This summer car problem impacts you more than your car. Air conditioning helps keep you comfortable and enhances your alertness. If your A/C can’t keep up with the heat, it could cause you to be fatigued.
How to prevent it: If the air conditioning isn’t cooling like it should, it may be low on refrigerant or need repair. Have the system checked by a pro. If your car has a cabin air filter, replace it as needed to ensure maximum airflow and cooling.
Why it happens: Inside your car—where summer temperatures can rise well into the triple digits—vinyl, leather and plastic surfaces can deteriorate and fade with prolonged exposure to the heat and sun.
How to prevent it: Summer car-care tips for the inside of your car include using specialty products that help prevent cracking and drying out. Other ways to minimize damage: Seek out shady parking spots, leave your windows slightly cracked to help vent hot air (unless rain is forecast) and use a sunshade to keep from baking the steering wheel and dashboard. And of course, you can always hope that fall arrives early.
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