Cars have numerous components that need maintenance to stay in good working order, so make sure to check these parts before you hit the road.
Brake pads: Brake pads provide the friction needed to slow and stop your car. They wear away with use, becoming too thin to work effectively. Usually it’s obvious when this happens due to irritating screeching or squealing noise they make. Replacing the brake pads should fix the noise and, more importantly, make your road trip safer. Depending on what your brake pads are made of and how they’re used, they can last anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 km.
Air filters: With dust, debris, and bugs everywhere, the road is a dirty place. Cars use air filters to prevent gunk from entering the engine or interior. Eventually air filters reach capacity and can become clogged, potentially impacting engine performance and fuel economy, and definitely affecting interior air quality. Air filters should be replaced about every 20,000 km, but fortunately, they’re usually inexpensive and easy to change.
Light bulbs: Having a burnt out light is an easy ways to get pulled over on a drive. To check, turn on your car, switch on the headlights, make sure it’s in Park, and take a walk around to see if any are burnt out. Repeat the process for the left and right turn signals. With the gear lever in still in Park, use a brick to hold the brake pedal so you can check the condition of your taillights.
As you’d expect, tires are paramount to safety, comfort, and fuel efficiency, so it’s important to check their condition.
Air pressure – 1,000 km: Every road tripper wants to get the best fuel efficiency, and under-inflated tires are guaranteed to waste gas. Conversely, over-inflated tires make ride quality worse because they’re less compliant. Incorrect air pressure also causes tires to wear unevenly and need replacement sooner. Be checking tire pressure every 1,000 km, so depending on the length of your trip, that could be a few times
Rotation – 8,000 to 10,000 km: Even if tire pressure is correct, variations in suspension calibration, weight balance, and road conditions make tires wear out at different rates. Because of this, it’s important to periodically rotate tires between different locations on your car. Swapping between the right and left side or front and rear helps tires last longer because they’re each exposed to similar variations. Tire rotations should be completed every 8,000 to 10,000 km.
Replacement – 40,000 to 80,000 km: If you think your tires are nearing their expiration date, the 50c test is an easy way to check. While tires last anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 miles depending on their type and use, if damage like punctures or sidewall bulges occur, replace them immediately.
The arrival of spring always stirs up a longing for adventure. After months cooped up inside, blue skies and warm weather are reason enough to load up your car and hit the highway.
However, your best planning will be undone if you can’t depend on your car. A breakdown on your daily commute is one thing, but what if your car leaves you stranded in the middle of nowhere? Car care is necessary year-round, but especially before a road trip, so complete these basic maintenance tasks before becoming a horror movie cliché.
Fluids are the lifeblood of any car. Service intervals on your car’s six essential fluids usually depend on mileage, so consider how far you’ve driven since your last one, and how far you plan on driving on your trip, to decide what needs attention.
Oil: You don’t need to be a car expert to know that oil is critical for an engine. It lubricates moving components like the pistons, crankshaft, and camshaft so they can move smoothly without friction. Oil should be changed every 5,000 to 7,000 km. If you’ve gotten an oil change within that range, use the dipstick to check the oil condition and fill level. If it’s black, gritty, or below the minimum, get it checked out right away.
Radiator fluid: Engines produce a lot of heat and the radiator keeps it cool. Radiator fluid, also known as coolant or antifreeze, works to extract heat from the engine and dissipate it through the radiator. A low coolant level will also likely result in overheating, so check your coolant and top it off if need be, and make sure to flush the system at 80,000 km intervals.
Brake fluid: When you push the bake pedal, fluid—yes, fluid—compresses inside the brake lines, forcing the brake pads to clamp on the rotors and slow your car. If you ever notice that the pedal feels spongy or has extra travel, the fluid may be contaminated. Be sure to top off the brake fluid if necessary, and flush it every 60,000 km.
Power steering fluid: Modern cars use power steering to make turning the wheel easy at any speed, but this fluid can also become contaminated, making your steering wheel less responsive. About 35,000 km you’re going to want to get your braking system checked out.
Transmission fluid: Not much ruins a drive like a transmission that jerks when it shifts. Transmission fluid helps gears mesh smoothly, and when it goes bad, uncomfortable shifts can be the result. Fortunately, transmission fluid lasts a long time, and some cars are even sold with so-called “lifetime” transmission fluid. Generally, though, it’s a good idea to replace the fluid at 100,000 km. Increased problems are likely with transmission fluid older than 120,000 km.
Windshield fluid: Long drives mean a dirty car, and there’s nothing on your car’s exterior more important to keep clean than the windshield. After all, you have to be able to see where you’re going. Adding windshield washer fluid is super basic – get a jug of fluid at any gas station, then simply use a funnel to fill up your reservoir if it gets low.
Paying attention to how hot your engine is running is necessary in maintaining the health of your vehicle. In fact, by monitoring your car’s temperature gauge, you can detect an overheating engine before costly damage occurs. Learn how to interpret this vital tool below!
What Is a Normal Engine Temperature?
Ideally, your engine’s temperature should fall somewhere in between 90 ºC to 105 ºC degrees. If your engine is operating normally, the needle will be near the center of the gauge. This doesn’t mean it will sit directly in the middle—becoming familiar with what reading is “normal” for your vehicle is key!
On particularly hot days when you are running the A/C at full blast, you may notice that your gauge reading is higher than normal. This is not necessarily a cause for concern, as long as the needle does not continue to move up during your drive.
Why Is My Engine Overheating?
If the temperature gauge needle starts to creep up to the red zone and/or the engine temperature warning light comes on, it’s a pretty clear sign your engine is overheating. Do not continue to drive with an overheating engine! Even short distances can cause severe damage to the engine block, cylinder head or other parts.
Most commonly, engine overheating points to a problem with the cooling system. Your coolant levels may be low or your radiator may have stopped working. Whatever the case is, stop and contact a qualified workshop. For a list of workshops go to My-Auto
Why Is the Temperature Gauge Reading Low?
In some instances, you may notice that the temperature gauge needle is pointing closer to the cold side. If the low reading still occurs after the engine has had a few minutes to warm up, it could be due to a malfunctioning thermostat or problem within the temperature gauge itself. Either way, you’ll want to have the problem looked at by one of our service professionals.
Your car is not immune to negative effects caused by such heat. Here are 10 simple ways to protect your vehicle from sun damage:
- Regularly check your fluid levels: When it’s hot outside, the fluids in your car can get used up more quickly than under normal circumstances. If you happen to be low on coolant, transmission fluid, or oil anyway, then that sub-optimal condition coupled with high temperatures increases the chance of damage to your car.
- Have your battery tested once or twice each summer: When it’s hot outside, there is often a higher load placed on your car’s battery from running systems like the air conditioning. Periodic testing of your battery and charging system in general prevents you from unpleasant surprises (i.e. the car not starting) on hot days.
- Get the air filters checked: There is typically more dust and debris circulating in the air during the warmer months, particularly in arid climates, and this can clog the air filters in your car. If this happens, your gas mileage may suffer, and it could even damage your mass air flow sensor, which helps regulate the air and fuel levels in your engine.
- Use reflector sun panels on your front and rear dashes: While it may seem like a hassle to whip these fold-out panels out every time you go to the store, it pays off in the long run. These panels greatly reduce the overall temperature inside your car, which you’ll appreciate when you return, and need to use less air conditioning to cool the car. These panels also help to prevent the bleaching effect the sun has on your interior surfaces and upholstery, which can lower the value of your car should you wish to sell it.
- Perform tire pressure checks monthly: Extreme heat, trapped air, and rubber can be a volatile combination, and it’s one on which your entire vehicle rests in the summer months. Under-inflated tires are more likely to blow out in high temperatures, so prevent accidents (and poor gas mileage) by checking your tire pressure at least once a month. Do this as early in the day as possible when the temperatures are coolest for the most accurate pressure readings.
- Park smart: If you have the choice between parking your car in the middle of a blazing parking lot or under a broad tree, opt for the shade. This doesn’t require any fancy props and will keep your car’s interior as cool as possible.
- Regularly clean your car’s interior: The pairing of dust and hot sun can wreak havoc on your interior, essentially caking grime onto your dash and other surfaces. With periodic cleaning, however, this becomes a non-issue; just be sure to use cleaners intended for automobile use to avoid stains and unnecessarily drying out materials at risk of cracking.
- Wash and hand-dry your car often: Just as dust and debris can cake onto your interior surfaces when exposed to high temperatures, your exterior paint can suffer in the summer sun. Frequently wash your vehicle to keep the surface clean, and dry it thoroughly by hand with a soft cloth, so bits of minerals and grime don’t stick to the residual moisture after a rinse.
- Use a protective wax: It’s not enough just to clean your car from time to time; you should wax it at least twice a year to lock in the natural oils in the exterior paint and provide a layer of protection not just from grimy bits that can scratch the surface, but also from the sun’s rays.
- Consider paint protection film: If you truly want to be vigilant against potential sun damage to your car, you may want to invest in a paint protection film kit. Some kits only cover the acrylic headlights, but some kits are available that cover your entire vehicle. If you adopt some or all of these simple tips to provide protection from the hot sun, your car will age more gracefully, much like your skin will with the regular application of sunscreen. They don’t take much effort to implement, and these small actions can save a lot of money down the road and help retain your car’s value over time.
Summer is here and school’s out! Unfortunately that also means the sun is out too and the heat is rising.
The combination of sun and heat can be damaging to your car.
However it’s not just the outside of your car you need to pay extra attention to, you need to take special care of your car’s interior as well.
Based on research from Popular Mechanics, interior air temperatures have been recorded well in excess of 45°C and vehicle interior surface temperatures on areas directly exposed to sunlight run in the excess of 95°C.
Take not we are not just talking about dashboard and seats that you need to care for. Nope. Your car’s engine may also be at risk.
The following tips are meant to have you ready no matter whether or not you live in a warm climate year-round or just require protection during the hot summer months.
And keep in mind your ABC’s: Always Be Cool.
Interior Care During Summer Months:
There’s an easy tip: park in the shade.
If you can manage to avoid direct sunlight, you will prevent any part of your interior from drying and/or cracking. If your car does not prevent it and if you trust the neighborhood, feel free open the windows a crack to help lower the interior temperature and equalize the air pressure.
One of the best things is getting a windshield sun protector. This makes a significant difference in keeping your car’s interior cool and preventing sun damage. They may look a little silly cumbersome at first, but are very easy to use. Find the size that fits your car.
Clean your dash. The combinations of dust and dirt can cause tiny scratches that can become worse over time especially in heat.
Clean your seats or cover them up. Whether you have leather or fabric seats, whenever you park your car you need to cover them up to minimize direct sunlight. This will also keep them from frying your butt when you get in. Take special care for leather seats by regularly applying a leather conditioner. The sun and heat really messes up that luxurious leather you paid up for.
Protecting Your Car Under-the-Hood during Summer:
Be sure to check your cooling system often. You need to ensure your engine does not overheat. Inspects all belts checked and have all the antifreeze/coolant drained then replaced on a regular basis as recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.
The possibilities of experiencing overheat only increases when fluid levels are below recommended levels. This is why before you drive you should check motor oil levels and also transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid.
If any of your vehicle’s fluids need to be topped off, double check your owner’s manual about the types of fluids you need.
Check that battery. Extreme temperatures, hot or cold coupled with high accessory loads (use of the vehicles air conditioning or heating) can cause your car’s battery to wear out and fail quicker than otherwise. This is where a professional mechanic comes in. A professional will make sure your car’s battery is functioning properly.
Make sure your air conditioning works. That AC not only keeps you comfortable, that comfort is in fact a key for you driving alertly. If your car never feels cool enough, the refrigerant charge level in the air conditioning system may be low. If the problem persists, there may be a more serious problem and you will need to have it checked by a professional.
ABC: Always be cool, no matter how hot it gets. The combined efforts of preventative maintenance and simple upkeep will keep you on the road.
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Covers For Reflecting Intense Sunlight
If you have no choice but to park under the blazing sun, a cover designed to reflect the maximum amount of sunlight will keep your interior much cooler, and it will protect your paint from sun fade that occurs under the relentless onslaught of UV rays.
If you live in such climates year-round (with no winter weather), we’ve got a choice of covers designed to prevent the highest level of UV intrusion. There’s Intro-Tech’s Intro-Guard Car Cover that features 2-layer construction with an aluminized polyurethane acrylic coating for sun reflection. This cover’s good for those who don’t need a high level of ding protection and prefer a thinner cover that takes less room to store.
Vehicle Specific Vs. Universal Fit Covers
We have both custom-fit (“vehicle-specific”) and universal-fit car covers. Our related article Should I Get A Custom-Fit or Universal Car Cover discusses these types more in depth. In this article, we will stick with the custom-fit ones. Whichever type you select, your cover will feature sturdy elastic around its entire bottom perimeter to ensure it clings as snugly as possible to your vehicle on all sides.
All-Weather Car Covers
For best value, we’ll start with Covercraft’s Block-It 380 Custom Car Cover – a medium weight cover which provides excellent resistance to rain along with good protection against dust, snow, UV rays, and dings. And if you’ve got a 1976-present Jeep CJ/Wrangler, the Smittybilt Car Cover and Crown 3-layer Full Car Cover are sized specifically for these 4x4s.
Moving up to heavier weight covers that offer even more resistance to rain, dirt, and dings, we’ve got the Covercraft 4-layer Evolution Car Cover, Covercraft 4-layer NOAH Car Cover, Coverking 4-layer Coverbond Custom Car Cover, EMPI 4-layer Deluxe Gray Car Cover (classic VW Beetles, Squarebacks, and Karmann Ghias), and Rampage Custom-Fit 4-Layer Breathable Car Cover (Ford Broncos, Jeeps, and other select models).