Summer vehicle maintenance tips to help you avoid a breakdown
There are few distinct differences between summer and winter driving —excessive heat and bright light being the major contenders. With that in mind, it raises plenty of areas to consider for your summer vehicle health check.
Your pre-journey inspection for summer road trips
- Check your cooling system and all fans are working correctly
When it comes to overheating — for both passengers and engines — you need to be sure your car is performing exactly as it should be.A leaking cooling system can cause direct damage to your engine. A seized engine can incur the most severe repair costs or even the end of your vehicle’s life.
- Check your fan belt
When it comes to keeping your engine cool, your fan belt is an essential part of the process. Your cooling fan is designed to operate only when needed, so you should make sure it works correctly when transitioning from the colder months into summer.
- If your car is a convertible, does the roof still open and close as designed?
What’s the point of that soft-top in summer if you can’t get it down?
- Always check your spare tyre is inflated and operational
Too many drivers are victim to a puncture only to realise the spare isn’t available or in a fit condition for use. Putting those extra miles on your clock throughout the summer means there’s a higher chance of a puncture—so make sure you’re prepared.
- Check all fluid levels, tyre pressures and you’ve got enough fuel to get where you’re going
It sounds so straightforward, yet we take our cars for granted far too often. All drivers should have these basics as part of their everyday motoring checklist. Yet far too often, we still fail to make sure they’re in order on long journeys or for holiday driving.A special summer note of concern is screenwash. With all the flies and bugs hitting the windscreen and much less chance of rain to wash them away, make sure you’re sufficiently topped up. It’s also worthwhile having a reserve quantity ready to go.
- Be sure that all lights and electrics are in order
Replace any bulbs that aren’t illuminating: everything from fog lights to indicators, and make sure all your car’s fuses are intact.
The most likely causes of your car’s summer breakdown problems
The RAC announced the following areas as being the most common reasons for breakdowns during the summer months.
Even though your car battery has to work much harder in winter, the summer months can put a different type of strain on your car’s battery.
Stop-start activity during short journeys or traffic jams will add stress to your battery. Additional entertainment devices and overworking your car’s electrical functions will add even more demands and drain to a battery. If your battery isn’t getting enough chance to replenish its power levels, this could well lead to a malfunction.
A long-distance journey to a holiday destination could exacerbate existing issues that haven’t yet come to light.
Cracked and aged rubber in your tyres may fail when subject to more intensive use, especially on hot summer roads.
Make sure you check all tyres, including the spare and those on caravans and trailers.
The last thing you want to happen is a blowout in the middle of a busy motorway.
Your clutch takes a real hammering in the summer. The extra stop-start driving, traversing hills and unknown roads, all add additional wear and strain to your clutch.
Towing a caravan or a trailer will put even more pressure on your clutch, so make sure they’re correctly attached and appropriately loaded.
Your alternator is directly responsible for the battery’s power level, so at a time where demand is added to the battery, it’s added to the alternator too.
Keep an eye out for a flickering red battery warning light on your dashboard. It could well be a sign that your battery’s power level is teetering around the required level and not getting sufficient power to recharge.
A few added extra summer motoring tips
What not to worry about
There are a handful of signs that look like trouble that could well be normal operating function.
- Your air conditioning unit will often produce small pools of water under your car due to condensed water emissions.
- Water vapour, again, provided by your air conditioning, could appear like smoke coming out of your air vents. It could just be water that hasn’t had the chance to condense. Unless it holds a particularly pungent smell, it’s probably safe to disregard.
- Additional noise from under the bonnet could be the cooling fan turning on and off. It can be quite loud in full operation, so don’t panic if it sounds like it’s suddenly working harder than normal.
- Less power delivery from your engine could be due to the air being warmer and less dense. If the delivery is significant, it’s always worth getting it checked out by a professional mechanic.
Added extras for every journey
You should have all of the following ready and available for every journey. However, it doesn’t do any harm to have a reminder checklist at hand, in case any have been removed and not replaced.
- First aid kit
- Fire extinguisher
- Spare fuel can
- Engine oil and water reserves
- Warning triangle
- Sun cream, refreshments and drinks
- Current maps or sat-nav
- High visibility clothing in case of breakdowns
- Spare bulbs
- Mobile phone with a full charge