Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but car care doesn’t take a vacation between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The warmer months present some challenges to personal transportation and maintenance, but this list will help us all have a summer we can enjoy.
Here are our top 10 tips to keeping your car — and its passengers — in good shape this summer.
1. Coolant System
Keeping cool is paramount, not just for ourselves but also for our cars. In addition to checking the level of coolant fluid in your car, go the extra mile and inspect the state of the hoses and the coolant reservoir. Keep an eye out for leaks, especially at joints and connection points, such as where a hose connects to the engine block. Also, squeeze the hoses (when the engine is cool) every once in a while to make sure they feel firm and not excessively squishy or soft.
2. Engine Belts
There is usually a serpentine belt that runs between the alternator, the fan and several other components. It can deteriorate, become loose, start to squeal, and sometimes just break for no apparent reason. It needs to be in good condition and at the right amount of tension. If you see cracks in the belt or small pieces missing, it’s time to replace the belt.
Yes, it’s summer, but it’s probably going to rain at some point. Worn wipers create nasty streaks across the windshield and can affect your vision while driving. Replacing them doesn’t cost much, but it can be a fiddly operation. If you’re in the habit of taking your car in for oil changes, ask them about the wipers, too. Sometimes a dealership will sell you the wipers and install them for free.
4. Other Essential Fluids
Check oil, brake, power-steering and windshield-washer fluids regularly. These liquids never stop being used and consumed. Speaking of brake fluid, how do the brakes on your car feel in general? Are they lacking in bite? Feeling a bit spongy? If so, new pads and a system bleed might be required. This is the kind of maintenance you should have your mechanic or dealership take care of.
5. Air-Conditioning System
Air-conditioning is a summer essential. If the system hasn’t been working properly but wasn’t really a pressing issue over the winter, now’s the time to get serious. If it’s an older system, then leaking Freon into the atmosphere is not good. There are plenty of leak-sealing products and refrigerant rechargers available from hobbyist stores and even places like Walmart. Remember, if there’s not enough refrigerant in the system, you have a leak. Have a qualified mechanic fix the leak before paying to have the air-conditioning system recharged.
6. Air Filter
The winter’s decomposing leaves may be clogging up drainage points, windshield-washer nozzles or your car’s air filter. Now might be a good time to buy a new one or take the current one out and give it a cleaning. Many modern cars also have pollen filters or cabin filtration systems, so take a look at those, too. Sometimes these cabin filters are easy to change yourself. Like everything else mentioned here: When in doubt, consult a qualified technician.
Tires really need to be checked regularly all year round. Pressures must be correct (consult the manual because sometimes that information is on the inside of the fuel door or the door jamb for the driver’s door), treads should be free of stones, stray nails and the like, and all four should be in good condition. Good condition means no cracks, no uneven wear (this might be caused by a suspension problem) and plenty of tread depth. Since summer is a time for road trips, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a can of Fix-A-Flat that could at least get you to a shady spot where you could change the wheel more comfortably. The spare obviously needs to be usable, too.
8. Dashboard Sunshade
For those times when you’re not driving, but the car is still out in the sun, a cover that goes in the windshield will protect the dashboard against ultraviolet rays and help the cabin stay a little cooler. Some even have solar panels to keep the battery charged. Consider shades for the rear side windows, too, as they’ll provide some protection for the kids. This also helps prevent areas such as the rear seats and dashboard from fading over time.
9. Clean the Car
Those long, balmy evenings when the sun is a huge, orange orb hanging low in a pinky-blue sky sound blissful. But they can also be a hazard, especially when your car’s windshield is dirty. Even from the inside, that haze will diffuse the light and make things hard to see. That grime has a tendency to build up over a long period, so we don’t really notice it. Things look much sharper after your car has had a good wash, though. Keeping the exterior clean also protects the paintwork from the sun’s rays, as well as any damage caused by birds and insects. Finish off the cleaning with a good-quality wax. Car care makes financial sense in the long run.
10. Driver and Passengers
It’s hot out there. Make sure everyone’s hydrated. It’s better to make a few more bathroom breaks and stretch your legs than to end up cranky and fatigued. Plan road trips as if you were a general marching against an opposing army. Make a list of everything you’re going to need. For example: sunglasses, hats, travel mugs, games for the kids, snacks, chargers for the phones and tablets, route planner, weather forecasts, emergency triangle, flashlight and a small tool kit. If a scheduled service is coming up, think about getting it done before a long drive. It’s also wise to make sure your insurance and driving license are up to date. Have a great summer, enjoy the roads, and take care of yourself and your car.
If you’re planning on kicking off summer with a getaway, you’re not alone. In a recent survey conducted by Travelocity, almost 40% of Americans traveled over Memorial Day and 4th of July weekends, with 77% of them planning to travel by car. Before you hit the open road, be sure to start the summer travel season off right by preparing for your adventure. Spending some time getting ready will help ensure a safe, fun and stress-free road trip.
SERVICE YOUR CAR
Check your filter and oil levels
Top off all fluid levels, including coolant and windshield wiper fluid
Change your air filter, if needed
Check your tires, including the spare tire, for proper inflation
Rotate tires, if you haven’t had it done for the last six months or 7,500 miles
Inspect belts and hoses
Test the battery and brakes
Change transmission fluid if needed
PLAN YOUR ROUTE
In today’s digital world, planning your route can be as simple as pulling up an app or opening Google Maps. Take a few minutes to map your route ahead of time, then let a trusted friend or family member know exactly where you’ll be driving to and when you plan on getting there. In addition, check weather conditions and road closures along your chosen route before you leave.
PACK YOUR BAGS MINDFULLY
Besides the proper clothes, shoes, undergarments, toiletries and such – you should also have a bag filled with emergency supplies. And REMEMBER, summertime is hot and if you get stranded, you’re going to need WATER. Some other items you might need are:
A properly inflated spare tire, lug wrench and jack
A tire pressure gauge and a can of compressed air
Flashlight and batteries
A plastic tarp
Bottled water and energy bars
Hand sanitizer and wet wipes
Plastic bags (for trash)
When you’re packing up the car, don’t put the emergency kit in first. Instead, wait until everything else is securely stowed before placing the kit in the trunk. That way, you can easily access it in case of an emergency.
IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY
If, despite your best efforts and pre-planning, you end up broken down on the side of the road, what should you do? First, pull your car to the side of the road and turn on your hazard lights. Put your car in park, set the emergency brake, and point the wheels away from the road. Keep your emergency contact numbers programmed into your phone so you can access them easily when
If you can safely get out, place flares about 50 feet behind your car to alert other drivers. Don’t, however, leave the car by the road while you’re waiting for help; generally, it’s safer to stay with your car than to be a pedestrian. If a stranger pulls over while you’re waiting for help to arrive, remain in the car with your doors locked. Roll the window down a bit and let them know help is on the way.
STAYING SAFE ON THE ROAD
When you’re on the road, remember every occupant needs to be buckled up at all times. Not only is this the law, but seat belts save lives… more than 12,000 a year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The safest place for kids under age 12 is in the back seat. Finally, if you feel fatigued, switch drivers or pull over to rest.
WHY must people sit in the fast lane and drive slow??? Everyone knows (or SHOULD know) that the left lane is for passing. Sure, if there’s a lot of traffic in the right lane, you could ride in the left. But at least do the speed limit for crying out loud, and move back over to the right when you’ve gotten past the cars. PLEASE! I’m begging you from the tread of my tires. Road Rage happens for a reason. People get frustrated, do stupid things, then cause accidents.
Now that I’ve gotten THAT off my hood, let’s talk about some other rules of the road that you might need reminding of. Every time you get behind the wheel, you accept responsibility for your actions. You must obey Virginia’s traffic laws, and ensure the safety of you, your passengers, and other motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists on the roadways.
Teddy Bear buckled with safety belt in a car
Under Virginia law, the driver and all front seat passengers must wear safety belts. A driver transporting anyone younger than age 18 must ensure that the passenger is properly secured in a safety belt, booster seat or child safety seat no matter where the child is seated in the vehicle. Believe it or not, there are some states that do not have a seat belt law. New Hampshire has enacted neither a primary nor a secondary seat belt law for adults. That may be because of their “Live Free Or Die” mentality 🙂 They don’t have a helmet law either.
Turn Right On Red After Stop
In Virginia, we can turn right on red after stop (UNLESS there is a sign that specifically says you can’t). That means if you come to a complete stop at a red light and you’re planning to turn right, you look to your left and if it’s clear, you can proceed. It’s a GREAT rule and terrific timesaver. I will say however, not ALL STATES have the ‘right on red’ rule. New York, for instance, does not allow you to turn right on red after stop.
Where Do I Put My Hands?
Is it 10 and 2? 1 and 7? Of course you’ll hear different things, but most people just put their hands on the steering wheel however it feels comfortable to them. The DMV says “Sit straight but relaxed and place your hands on the steering wheel. If your steering wheel were a clock, your hands should be at the 8 o’clock and 4 o’clock positions. Hold the wheel with your fingers and thumbs. Avoid gripping it with your palms.” So there you have it. 8 and 4.
The Virginia Driver’s Manual will help you learn and understand safe driving practices. CLICK HERE to get it.
We love Virginia. So much variety in it’s terrain. We have Mountains and Rivers; Bays and Ocean; white sands and red clay; green grass and pale yellow straw. You get the picture. Drive safely and take care of yourself and your family! And if you need insurance from a Virginian Insurance Agency, well, we MIGHT be ABLE to recommend someone!
Let Us Save You Money On Your Insurance With Combo Rates!
Combining homeowners or renters insurance with an auto insurance policy can provide you with big savings, thanks to our multi-product discount. Just contact us and let us know what you're looking for and we'll try to save you lots of money!
Conveniently Located Offices
716 Rio Rd West Charlottesville, VA 22901 434 979 0814
9103 Quioccasin Rd, Richmond, VA 23229 804 741 6305