The Summer List: Make Sure Your Car is Ready for its Journey Ahead

Originally Published on on May 1, 2011 By Tammy Neal, VMD Staff Writer

This blue planet we live on offers four seasons (for most of us), and it’s usually pretty easy to spot with a glance which one Mother Nature has offered up. On a winter day you might see white stuff covering the ground, gaze upon trees without their leaves and feel a chill in the air. On the other hand, a summer day usually holds sunny skies, leafy trees and the occasional wildflower. It’s not hard to see that things have changed with the seasons. But wait—are those snow tires on a car headed to the beach?

Mother Nature has taken care of choreographing the seasons and, hopefully, now it feels like summer; however, it’s your responsibility to make sure your car is ready for the impending warmer weather. Here are a few tips to help you do just that.

No More Snow

We know, there can be that freak June snowstorm in some parts of the country, but here’s hoping you’ve seen the last of the white stuff for a while. Now is the time to change out your snow tires. Plus, in some parts of the country it is against the law to run snow tires after a certain date.


Lights, Camera, Action

Just kidding about the camera, but before you venture out on your next journey, make sure your all of your vehicle’s lights are working properly. Burned out or malfunctioning light bulbs can not only be dangerous, but they could also land you a traffic ticket. Here are some important ones to inspect: headlamps, taillights, brake lights, side markers and license plate lamps.

What’s That Smell?

Although you might not need it quite yet, crank up your air conditioning to ensure it’s functioning properly. If it is not getting as cold as you would like, take a trip to your auto service center; they can likely diagnose and fix the problem for you.

Did you get a whiff of foul-smelling air when you first turned on the A/C? If so, it may be a sign that mold and mildew are living in your air conditioning system. Ask your auto service technician about an A/C odor removal service. Performing one not only zaps that nasty smell, but it also makes the air healthier for you to breathe.

Before the Storm

Spray some water on your windshield and test your wiper blades. It’s better to find out now that they’re past their prime than in the middle of the first summer rainstorm. Wiper blades usually last about six months, and winter’s cold and summer’s heat can both speed up deterioration.

Air ’Em Up

Driving with underinflated tires can be detrimental to fuel economy, and with rising gas prices we need all the help we can get. Make sure your tires are inflated to the proper pressure. Tires lose about one psi of air pressure per month, and a tire that is underinflated by two psi can reduce fuel economy by one percent.

While you’re at it, visually inspect your tires for any abnormalities such as cracking or bulging. If you spot something strange, it may be time for a new tire.

Fluids Full?

Before heading out on your road trip, pop the hood and check your fluid reservoirs, like windshield washer fluid, coolant (Note: do not open the radiator cap if the engine is hot!), motor oil, power steering fluid, etc. Each reservoir should be marked with a fill line. If you spot one that’s low and don’t feel comfortable filling it yourself, head to your auto service center; many of them will often do it for free.

Have Your Tech Check

While you’re at your service center, have your technician visually inspect your filters, hoses and belts. Spotting one before it fails not only saves money—in the form of expensive repair bills—it also saves grief, because no one likes being stranded on the side of the road.

Up to Date

While you’re giving your vehicle the once-over, make a stop in the glove box. Check to see that your vehicle registration, insurance and inspection are current.

Summer Sparkle

Make sure winter’s road grime has completely disappeared by washing, waxing and polishing your car. Experts recommend polishing your vehicle four times a year to clear contaminants and reduce the chance of oxidation. Waxing your car will help to seal any microscopic cracks in the paint and protect the finish from summer’s sweltering heat.

Be Prepared

Pack a summer survival kit. You probably won’t have to rough it in the wilderness with nothing but a buck knife and duct tape, but your family might have a bee-sting or sunburn emergency. Be prepared for it all with a summer emergency pack; don’t forget the bottled water, sunscreen, umbrella, bug spray or first-aid kit, just to name a few.

Making sure your car is ready for summer takes only minutes and can help keep you safe, happy and on the road, no matter where your summer travels take you.

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