A quick vehicle checklist to avoid heat-related damage
Summer is around the corner and you might be thinking about how you’re going to keep yourself cool during scorching days. However, have you considered how these high temperatures will affect your car? There are several aspects of your daily transportation that require liquid, and some parts need a regular check-up to make sure those precious fluids aren’t escaping too quickly.
Drink lots of fluids – that means your car, too!
If you’re feeling dehydrated after even a short walk outside, think how your car is doing after sitting out in the sun all day. Asphalt can reflect heat up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, so your car’s liquids are probably vaporizing a little faster than usual. To make sure your car has what it needs to stay in peak condition, check the levels on the following:
- Coolant in your radiator.
- Power steering.
- Brake fluid.
- Differential (this transmits torque and rotation to the wheels).
- Engine oil.
- Wiper fluids.
- Battery (only if it has vent caps).
Most of these should be accessible by popping open your car hood and each should provide you with a method of checking the levels, either by looking into the container and checking a marked level or pulling out a dip stick indicator. Follow instructions for proper refilling.
Wipe down your wiper blades
With summer comes the inevitable summer storms, and these can appear out of nowhere with little warning. Make sure you aren’t caught in blinding rain with bad wiper blades by checking them for built up gunk and wear.
If the blades still look to be in decent condition – no uneven sections or chunks missing – mix together a solution of white vinegar and water and give your blades a good wipe. However, if the blades appear worn, replace them as soon as you can. A good rule of thumb is that wiper blades should be replaced about once every year or so.
Cool hose and snappy belts
The hoses and belts in your car also need a once over occasionally to make sure they’re in good condition and not too worn for use. This is a quick check you can do while you’re under the hood checking those fluid levels. Visually check the hoses and belts for signs of wear such as flaking, cracking or bits missing. Be sure to check around joints and connections as these sections tend to wear out faster than the rest.
For hoses, press against them and make sure they feel sturdy and firm. If the material feels soft or flakes at your touch, it likely needs to be replaced. For belts, if they feel excessively slick (glazed) or appear to be separating along the width, that’s a good indicator that they should probably be replaced soon.
Last, do a quick run through on your air conditioning system to make sure it’s running properly. In addition, you should get your air conditioner flushed out (this is the process of removing impurities or damaging substances from the refrigerant cycle) every three years as routine maintenance. A small fix now could save you big bucks down the road. To check your car’s air conditioning, let it run for a minute or two and check that:
- It’s not cycling over too quickly (this could indicate low refrigerant levels).
- The temperature reaches a noticeably cool level at lowest setting (air conditioning temperatures should typically be about 50 degrees Fahrenheit when running properly).
- The fan isn’t blowing noisily.
- The car isn’t threatening to overheat or stall.
- The air doesn’t smell strange.
If your car has any of these symptoms, have it checked by a professional. While there are DIY guides online for fixing your own air conditioning, there’s always a chance you could let refrigerant escape on accident. This chemical tends to linger in the atmosphere for up to 11 years and damages the climate, so be environmentally conscious and take your car to a repair shop that controls, filters and disposes of refrigerant according to EPA standards.