The great British summer finally looks as though it’s approaching, along with the Bank Holiday. Many of us will be taking advantage of our allotted four days of sunshine to take to the roads for a weekend away, but before you do it’s worth remembering that just as much as cars don’t like the weather too cold, neither do they like it when it’s too warm.
A nice man from the RAC said: “Motorists might think that the cold is the biggest challenge for cars, but hot weather can put vehicles under pressure too.
“During heatwaves, we often experience a 20 percent increase in call-outs, and this can even get as high as 30 percent in coastal areas.”
A spell of warm weather can affect everything from your battery to your tyres. Once you factor in near-stationary Bank Holiday traffic, you realise it’s well worth giving your car the once over to make sure you don’t end up with any nasty surprises or unnecessary delays on your summer days out.
Here is our checklist for your warm weather car trips…
Engines naturally generate a lot of heat and need oil to keep them running smoothly. Regular engine oil checks are a must, but are more important in the summer months – more journeys mean more wear on the engine, and especially if stuck in traffic there’s no air-flow, meaning more pressure is put on the oil system to help keep the engine cool.
Tip: Before setting off, make sure you’ve got enough oil in your system, and check that it’s still running nice and smoothly, not clogged up.
Just as important for your engine is the cooling system. Overheating, as we’ve already said, will damage the engine. Coolant is more prone to natural evaporation than oil, so during warm weather you may start to run low sooner than you’re used to during the winter months.
Again, like the oil, it should be checked regularly as the additives in the coolant may be depleted or break down leading to inefficient cooling and contaminants and debris building up in the radiator.
Tip: Top up your coolant, and if necessary flush the system. Make sure you use the right coolant for your system – don’t mix them. When driving, keep an eye on your temperature gauge.
3. Steering & Brake Fluid
While hydraulic fluids such as those that assist your steering and brakes don’t usually need replacing – they’re a closed system – that system is worth checking anyway.
Valves, seals, and pipes are prone to degradation just like the rest of the car, and rubber dislikes heat as much as cold. Especially moving from one to the other. Problems which may not have presented themselves on cooler days are more likely to crop up on a long, hot journey. If your fluid levels have dropped, it will indicate a leak either through a degraded pipe or a seal or valve that has expanded in the heat and become loose.
Tip: Check the pressure on your steering and brakes, and on short journeys listen for any squeals or squeaks while turning and braking. Check the fluid levels and pipes all the way along for cracks, disintegration, and check the seals for any leaks.
Another one of those things that should be done regularly, checking your tyres should go without saying. Just like with the fluid pipes mentioned above, the rubber in your tyres can degrade, and problems are more likely to reveal themselves in warmer weather.
That same nice man from the RAC adds: “In the case of tyres, for instance, drivers tend to take longer journeys in the summer months – which can lead to pre-existing problems coming to the fore.”
Warm weather can also directly affect the air pressure in your tyres – combine that with worn or damaged tyres and your risk of a blowout is hugely increased – by up to 60 percent.
Tip: Check the pressure in your tyres, and examine the outsides for any signs of wear, cracking, or bulging.
Alternatively, we can do a full tyre check for you – just contact us for details!
While we’re down in that section of your pride-and-joy, take a look at your brakes. The constant stop-start of slow-moving traffic adds further pressure to your braking system in addition to the heat.
Your brakes should be in tip-top condition all year round, but in the summer and overheating or “fading” brake can increase your stopping distances or in really bad cases lead to a complete brake failure.
Tip: Check your brake fluid, as mentioned above, and look out for leaks. Take a look at your brake pads too, check for any signs of serious wear. If you’re not sure, take it to your friendly neighbourhood service centre for a once-over.
One word: Potholes.
You can guarantee that as the temperature rises, the cracks in the road will appear and get bigger and bigger with the increased volume of traffic. Your car will be laden with people and luggage, and getting caught in traffic will mean you’re stopping and starting.
The very nature of suspension means that those springs and shocks generate heat every time they operate, and in warmer temperatures that additional heat spreads throughout the whole system. More potholes and heavier loads just put more pressure on your shock absorbers.
Driving with failing suspension isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s dangerous.
Tip: Listen for rattling when stopping, and check for loose mounting bolts. Make sure your springs and ball joints look OK too, and watch out for any leaking oil.
Driving in summer can be amazing – the clear skies, the rolling hills, the open road – but it’s not without its pitfalls, especially if you suffer from hayfever or other respiratory problems.
The pollen count goes through the roof, pollution goes up, and a lack of breeze can leave all that smog sitting there on the roads.
Your air filters should be checked at least once a year as a matter of course, and with all the pollutants in the air during warmer weather, the summer is as good a time as any to check yours.
The last thing you want is a sneezing fit on that nice country road. Not only will you miss the scenery, but you run the risk of missing the road, too.
Although we’ve talked about oil already, the oil filter is just as vital to the system as the levels themselves. If you’ve found that your oil is running thick and sludgy, an oil change will only do so much. It’s probably worth checking the filters too so they’re doing the best they can to keep your engine running.
Tip: Check, and if necessary replace, your air and oil filters.
8. Engine Belts
Sorry to sound like a broken record here, but engine belts, like the fluid pipes, the radiator hose, your tyres, and like your wipers mentioned below, while sturdy, are likely to show greater signs of damage in warm, dry weather.
If you get a squealing sound as you pull away and accelerate or decelerate, it’s a sign that one of your belts is probably slipping.
Tip: Check your drive belt, alternator belt, and timing belts for signs of cracking, blistering, and other wear-and-tear.
9. Wipers & Windscreen
Just as important as how your car runs is being able to see where it’s running to. Tiny cracks that occurred in winter are more likely to become much bigger cracks as the windscreen expands with the heat.
Increased traffic, pollution, and of course the flurry insects that don’t get out of the way can lead to a build-up of muck on your windscreen: smudges and bright sunlight don’t mix well and lead to difficult reflections and overall loss of visibility.
Your wipers are just as likely to show signs of degradation with driving in warm weather, meaning those smudges aren’t going anywhere fast, and neither will you be.
Tip: Check your wipers for signs of cracking and blistering, and make sure they operate smoothly and properly. Check your windscreen for any cracks or pits and get them fixed.
It sounds silly, but one of the most common problems during summer driving is running out of fuel.
Fuel evaporates faster in warm weather, and with additional stress on the engine through heavier loads and running air-conditioning you’ll be burning through it faster than usual too.
Tip: Make sure you fill up before you need to, and carry spare.
Car batteries contain water as well as the reactive elements, and this too will evaporate more in the summer. This can leave plates exposed leading to damage to your battery and being unable to start your car – and you can guarantee that’ll be when you need it most. Even if that’s just to charge your phone.
The stop-start nature of hitting greater traffic and longer journeys will also increase vibration on the battery, which is also very bad for its health.
Tip: Make sure the battery is topped up, that there are no signs of leakage, and that it is securely mounted.
12. Emergency Kit
As a general rule, but especially on long journeys, it always pays to be a boy scout and be prepared. Take a leaf out of Murphy’s book and assume that if it can go wrong, it will. Hope that it doesn’t, be ready if it does.
Tip: Make sure you’ve got an emergency kit readily available somewhere in the car – and if possible not underneath all your suitcases. You might also want to take a look at some of the cool car gadgets we found for you in our post a few weeks ago.
At a minimum it should contain:
- Basic First Aid Kit
- Basic Tool Kit:
- Pliers – flat and long-nose
- Screwdrivers – flat-head, cross-head, and miniature
- Small Socket Set
- Jump leads
- Warning sign in case of electrical failure (no hazards)
- Plenty of water
- Non-perishable food
- Extra coolant/oil/fuel
That’s our 12 top tips for summer driving. Whether it’s a road trip down Route 66 or just a quick jaunt over to Blackpool, make sure your car won’t let you down by giving it the once over.
Then again, it’s your holiday! why not sit back and relax and let Tameside Auto Centre take care of it for you – leaving both you and your car in tip-top condition to enjoy your time off! Don’t hesitate to contact us to arrange a full service for your car.