We are definitely in the middle of a heat wave over much of the United States right now. Here in St. Louis we have set record highs and the forecast is still going to be in the 100s the next week or so. Ugh. Not only is this rough on people, but it can also be really hard on our cars. Most overheating problems in cars are due to a lack of maintenance. Here are 8 tips for keeping your car healthy in the heat wave.
- Keep your tires adequately inflated
Usually this is between 32-35 psi (pounds per square inch). An underinflated tire gets hotter than usual and can cause a blowout. You can get a decent (don’t buy by the super cheap) tire pressure gauge and then you take the cap off the valve stem (the little outie thing on your tire), then a quick press of the gauge onto the stem and the little marker comes out the bottom to tell you your current psi. Add air as needed. Don’t forget to check the spare tire (even if never used before).
- Make sure radiator is full
A radiator is a part of your car that helps remove heat from the engine. When it is very hot this job is even more important. Make sure your radiator is full of coolant. You may want to take this to a shop to have done as part of an overall checkup. Never open up the radiator cap when the engine is hot.
- Check your battery cables
Look at the cables attached to the battery (you may have little plastic covers to lift up) to see if they are corroded. If they are, clean with a paste of baking soda and water using a brush and rinse. Yes, the trick you hear about Coke removing corrosion works, but it is messy and doesn’t work as well and makes its own mess. Always use safety glasses when cleaning your battery cable.
- Use reflective sunshades on your windshield
The cardboard ones aren’t best, but are better than nothing. If you can, buy the ones that have a reflective finish though which will work best. Using these will help keep your car a little cooler inside when parked in the sun and will help prevent cracking and fading of your dashboard.
- Leave windows down an inch or two
This will help keep the interior a bit cooler which helps it last longer. Make sure to roll them up if thunderstorms pop up in your area.
- Keep your gas tank above 1/2 full
Having gasoline surrounding the fuel pump helps keep the pump cool and greatly extend its life. As a side note it is best to fill your tank early in the morning or later in the evening to help our atmosphere.
- Keep your exterior clean
Make sure to promptly wash your car of bird droppings, tree sap, bugs, etc. as the high heat temperatures can “bake” these things into your paint.
- Check your air conditioning
If you think your a/c is not cold enough, check it by inserting thermometer into the vent in the center passenger side and turn the blower on low and a/c on max with all windows and doors closed. Let it sit for 5-6 minutes and then read the thermometer. It should be between 40°-60° F – it all depends on your car and ambient temperature. If not in this range, take it to a qualified tech to have charged and checked for leaks.
If you are not comfortable in checking or doing any of these steps call a reputable local shop and ask if they have a summer car care package or summer check-up or the like and how much it costs. For just checking things – not doing any repairs or fill-ups, etc. – it should be less than $100 to have this done. If you need replacement parts, fluids, freon, etc. obviously the price will increase. Finding a shop and technician you can trust is crucial. There are plenty of them out there, but sadly there are a few bad apples who try to rip people off. Do not be afraid to take your car someplace else for a second opinion if they say you need a high dollar service.
All cars are different. Check your manufacturer’s recommendations for levels, amounts, fluids, etc. Hubby is a master ASE automotive technician and these tips come from his 25+ years in the industry. He stresses that year-round maintenance is always vital in keeping your cars running smoothly for as long as possible. Treat it well and you will have far fewer surprise expenses.
© 2012, Robyn Wright. All rights reserved.