Unhaggle | How to Prepare Your Vehicle for Spring/Summer Driving

Posted by | March 05, 2014 | Ownership | No Comments

springsummer driving

Summer driving, having a blast! Summer driving happened so fast!

Okay, I’ll stop there, but as someone who is genuinely excited for sunshine, patio time and road trips, there is nothing like the arrival of spring. But just because the icy streets have thawed doesn’t mean you can start neglecting your vehicle – the heat can cause problems for the Ford Fusion that you take to work every day or the Dodge Avenger that you plan on driving to the cottage.

Get rid of your winter tires


Summer often feels too short, and it’s easy just to shrug the shoulder and say it might be better to keep the winter tires on all seasons. Don’t do that!

First off, winter tires are made to last for two to three seasons, so by driving it on occasions that don’t require it, you’ll end up wearing them down.

Winter tires are designed with deeper treads from a formulated compound that helps it stay soft in cold weather. If you drive with winter tires on wet spring roads or hot dry summer roads, the car may have difficulty stopping.

After you have swapped your tires, check all five of them – don’t forget your spare – to make sure they are clean, aligned and not under or over-inflated. Poor tire pressure can be a hazard in hot conditions.

Take that salt and sand out of your trunk 


Remove all the unnecessary weight from your vehicle. There is no reason to keep a bag of salt and sand in your trunk during the summer. It will only cause your vehicle to lose energy – energy you can be spending on the air conditioner instead.

Consider what you need for your daily commute or your weekend road trips. Invest more space for a first aid kit.

Check fluid levels before towing a trailer or a boat


Whether you have reached the specialist recommended 12,000-km mark or not, you should always check your oil level before loading up a trailer or a boat.

It doesn’t have to be a complicated trip to the mechanic; checking your fluid level is something you can do on your own. Simply park your car on a levelled surface, let it run for five minutes and then turn it off. Then open up the hood and find the oil dipstick. Remove it and inspect two things: the level of oil and the hue.

If the oil is too low, consider adding another quart to it or changing the oil completely, depending on your situation. As for the colour, the oil should be a yellowish brown. If it is too dark or has a noticeable amount of dirt or grime, then it is time to get the oil changed or its filter replaced.

Other fluids to consider are the brake fluid, power steering fluid and windshield washer fluid. Consult your manual to locate them under the hood.

Concerning the brake fluid, a car does not consume any, so if there is not enough, it can mean there is a leak in the brake line or the brake surface is worn down. Without an adequate amount, the car will have trouble braking.

Power steering fluid can be easily checked through the plastic reservoir. Follow the guidelines and fill an appropriate amount, which you should base on the condition of your vehicle.

Wiper fluid won’t hinder the car’s performance on a nice summer day, but for the sake of visibility, it is better to have more windshield washer fluid than none.

Check your a/c system, hoses and belt


A lack of air conditioning can turn a nice trip into an agonizing heat wave inside a traffic jam. The best way to see if the a/c is performing up to standard is by testing it out. Turn it on and feel if it can maintain 10 degrees Celsius below the temperature outside. If it can’t keep you cool, then there might be a low level of refrigerant and will require a professional to check it out.

In addition to keeping you cool, it’s also important to keep the car engine cool as well. So checking up on the hoses and belts is as important as checking on the radiator and coolant. The hoses pump the coolant from the radiator to the engine, and the belt turns the fan – which also helps avoid overheating.

The hoses shouldn’t have any leaks or cracks. The weakest part is where it clamps to the radiator and the engine – if a break is to happen, it’s likely to be there. Aside from that, it should always feel firm to the touch.

Professionals believe that the belt will start deteriorating at approximately 58,000 km and may become a big risk. To check the belt you can just look to see if there is any damage and if it looks too smooth, or you can take a step further and remove it to see if it is separating into different layers.

Check and clean your car battery


There is no need to explain the importance of the car battery. But what you should know is that summer heat can be as damaging to your battery as the deep freeze of winter. The heat can cause your battery to overcharge or by evaporating the battery fluid, it can shorten your battery life significantly.

Cleaning it is the best way to keep your battery performing well and holding charges. Take it out, detach it from the cables and give it a good inspection. Then make sure it’s placed back in tightly and all the cables are connected securely. If you suspect the battery is giving up on you, take it into a service shop and have professional mechanics inspect it.

Change the air filter


The professional recommendation for a filter change is every 19,000 km, but after winter the filter may be clogged by salt, dirt and other debris. If you have driven through many dirt roads or dusty trails, consider taking it into a shop and seeing if it is in need of replacing. Changing an air filter may be a gut call in many cases. Since replacing an air filter can improve gas mileage by 10%, it should not be overlooked.

Yes, we are all ready for summer, we have been ready for a long time now – but it’s more important that your car is ready. After all, it’s the one taking you to all the fun.

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