A Guide to Preparing Your Vehicle for the Summer

summer drive tipsWhen the temperature climbs higher on the outside, things start heating up under the hood of your vehicle. During this weather change, it is essential that you not give your car the cold shoulder. Whether you are commuting daily to work or planning a long road trip, take some time to perform a little routine maintenance. The long days, stronger sun, and beach season demand that you get in shape by hitting the gym.

Similarly, before you get on the highway for an early summer getaway, it is vital to keep your car in tip-top shape. Fortunately, you can use several preventative steps for keeping your engine cool. Below are some useful tips on how to prepare your car for the warm-weather drivers and prevent things from heating up in the engine:

Check Your Tires

As the summer months get closer and the snow on the group begins disappearing, you should have your winter tires replaced. It is important that if your previous tires were worn out, you buy new all-season tires. They deliver better traction in a wider range of roadway conditions, be it slippery roads, gravel-filled roads, or roads filled with potholes and bumps.

However, replacing the tires shouldn’t be your only priority. It is vital that you also have your tires rotated and balanced for improving fuel economy and ensuring a smoother ride. Additionally, don’t forget to check the air pressure. Check your owner’s manual to figure out the right amount of air pressure. This will deliver better handling, while significantly increasing the life span of your tires (over- or underinflated tires may result in drag and excessive wear and tear).

Brake Check

This step goes hand-in-hand when having your tires checked and replaced. Analyze your brakes and figure out whether they require replacement. There are many signs to look for when your brakes are worn out. If your brakes make a squealing or scratching sound, it is a clear sign that the brakes shoes or pads have passed their limit. Similarly, if you notice vibrations, vehicle leaning to the left/right, or delays while braking, it is imperative that you have it checked. Visit a professional mechanic immediately and have your brakes replaced to avoid any sort of problems like less-effective stopping (which could even result in collisions or serious accidents).

Change Your Oil

With the change of season, it is vital that you have your oil changed. Bear in mind that the oil in your engine should always reflect the outside temperature. Therefore, if you haven’t already replaced the oil, give your engine some new life and energy using fully synthetic motor oil that is optimized for good performance. New oil keeps your engine running smoothly and offers great protection in a wide range of conditions. It also improves your fuel-economy, ensuring you don’t have to pay much for gas.

Check Your Fluid Levels

Every car owner has perhaps faced that annoying moment, when they hit the windshield washer and nothing comes out. This can cause serious issues, especially if you are driving in foggy weather with lots of moisture. The windshield might get completely fogged, making it difficult for you to see. Similarly, if the fluid levels of your brake, transmission, and power steering aren’t topped up, you may experience poor vehicle performance. So, before the summer season arrives, make sure to top all fluid levels.

Check Engine Belts and Hoses for Cracks and Wear

Changes in weather and climate can cause great damage to your engine components, especially belts and hoses. As soon as the winter season starts fading, your belts and hoses might get completely soft. This makes them vulnerable to cracks and extensive wear, especially around places where the hoses are clamped and connected. Have them checked and replaced, if in poor condition. However, do not attempt to touch the belts or hoses, after driving your vehicle (as it may cause serious injuries and burns).

Flush the Cooling System

An excellent method for keeping your engine cool during the summer season is to have your cooling system flushed. You can refer to your owner’s manual for recommendations or advice on how to do it. However, it is preferred that you visit a professional mechanic, so that you don’t damage any other engine component. If the weather is moderate, an annual cooling system flush is good. However, if you’re in a state that experiences extremely hot summers, it is vital that you change your coolant twice a year.

Use a Good Radiator Coolant

During the hot days of summer, your car needs hydration just as your body. Using simple water or the wrong coolant will result in pump and radiator damage. Therefore, it is advised that you consider using a good anti-freeze fluid. These products contain corrosion inhibitors that have a higher boiling point than water. As a result, they do a better job in keeping your engine cooled. Before buying coolant though, it is imperative to read the label to confirm it’s safe for your vehicle’s make/model.

Test Your Air-Conditioning

With the summer months arriving, you will undoubtedly be using more of the air-conditioning system rather than the heater. Therefore, before the mercury gets too high, run a quick test on your car’s air conditioning system. Turn the AC on high to the coldest level and make sure that cool air is coming out of the vents. If you feel the airflow is not strong enough to cool the interior of the vehicle, hear unusual noises, or experience any problems, have your AC system checked for refrigerant leaks or pipe deterioration.

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Apply a Protective Coating

Similar as to applying suntan lotion at a lake or beach, it is vital to remember that you car can be damaged by the UV rays of the sun too. Subsequently, do not be hesitant on applying a coating of sun protective layer on your vehicle’s exterior. Also, use a sun polish for the interior of the vehicle to prevent harm from windshield reflections.

Therefore, now that you are familiar with the tips mentioned above, preparing your vehicle for the summer won’t be a problem.

Common Mechanic Scams and How to Avoid Them

scamNot every mechanic is going to try to scam you. The horror stories that some people will tell about being shown an air filter that is completely disgusting and being advised to pay to replace it, only to watch the mechanic insert that same air filter back into the car are few and far between. That doesn’t mean, however, that this doesn’t happen. When you bring your car to our service bay, you can be sure to find great, honest, hard-working mechanics that will get your car back in working order, without charging you thousands of dollars to do it.

We know that sometimes it’s just not possible to bring your car into our service department and that you will sometimes have to take it to another mechanic, who might not have that same standard of integrity. If you want to be aware of some of the common scams so you can avoid them, here are eight to watch out for:

1. Do I really need new spark plugs? Thirty years ago, spark plugs really didn’t last that long and it was smart to have them replaced each time you went in for an oil change. Today, that’s really not necessary. Most cars should have an oil change every 5000 to 7000 miles (even up to 10,000, depending on your oil and what make and model you’ve purchased). For those that commute or live out in the country, that might be every six to twelve months. Most spark plugs have a life of 100,000 miles these days. Paying to have those sparkplugs replaced every time you have your oil changed is probably unnecessary.

2. The urge to opt for synthetic oil. If you’ve had your car’s oil changed at a Jiffy Lube recently, they’ve probably offered you a range of different oil choices, from regular, to synthetic, to blend, to even more expensive options. Regular oil is usually the cheapest, but most mechanics will recommend synthetic oil. It lasts longer—that’s true, and most car manufacturers do recommend it, but if you stick to your oil change schedule and get your car regularly maintained, there is really no reason to pay more for synthetic oil when regular oil will work just as well.

3. It’s time to change your air filters. Most cars today have their own systems that monitor their filters and let you know when it’s time for a change. Even if your car doesn’t have these diagnostic systems, it’s probably fairly obvious whether or not you need new filters when the mechanic shows them to you. Just make sure the filters they are showing you are actually your filters. Some unscrupulous mechanics will bring out a pair of disgusting filters, claiming that they’re yours and telling you that you need to pay to have them replaced, hoping that you will not know what your air filters look like or when your car is due for new filters. Get to know your filters, what they look like, and what your filter change schedule is.

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4. Is it time for your transmission to be serviced? This is one of the reasons bringing your vehicle in to a dealership’s service department, rather than to a mechanic that isn’t familiar with your make and model. We will be able to tell if it really is time for your transmission to be serviced. Many mechanics will simply tell you that it is, without understanding your model or its history, and will charge for what is basically draining fluid that didn’t need to be drained and replacing it with new fluid that it didn’t really need.

5. Did you flush the cooling system? While your cooling system will occasionally need a flush, paying extra for this service when you don’t really need it can lead you to a more expensive visit to the mechanic than you were planning on making. Unless the coolant in your car is actually contaminated or is no longer working, there is really no need to flush the entire system and put in new coolant. You’ll be flushing money as your cooling system is flushed.

6. You need to recharge your air conditioning system. This is something that few of us have even heard of. Why would the air conditioning system need to be recharged? How does it lose charge? Unless you’ve noticed that your air conditioning is no longer as effective as it once was, there really is no reason to add more refrigerant. In some cases, this really is preventative maintenance, but often, there is no actually need to recharge your air conditioning system, especially if it is functioning just fine in your eyes.

7. Have you replaced your brakes recently? You obviously want your brakes to be functioning perfectly when you press down on that pedal to use them. Some mechanics will use this desire to encourage you to replace your rotors or pads before they are actually worn down. You can easily check your own brakes to make sure they are still functioning properly and have the right thickness, so do this before you take your car in for maintenance. If the mechanic tells you that the brakes are worn down when you know they’re not, he’s probably just trying to get you to pay for a service you don’t need.

8.Does the mechanic ask you to buy a new tire when you bring in a flat? Most of the time, especially with simple punctures and tears, it’s possible to patch a tire. It’ll take about five minutes and costs you about fifteen dollars (if that). Some mechanics will tell you that instead of “limping along” with tire that’s been patched, you should just buy a new tire. If they can legitimately patch the tire for you, there’s no reason to buy a new one.