The summer solstice is one week away and temperatures outside just keep getting warmer. We decided that we should compile a top ten list of warm weather driving tips for any conscientious and safe driver (and that's you, right?). As summer is a time when many families embark on road trips in their car, truck, SUV or minivan we figured that the notion of staying safe on the road would be paramount. We know that when all our loved ones are in the car the last thing we want is a total mechanical breakdown with no functioning air conditioning. (Mainly we worry about the air conditioning, we won’t lie.)
Keep Your Eye on Your Engine Temperature Gauge: When the temperatures rise outside the likelihood of the temperature rising in your engine compartment rises, too, and with that comes danger of a hefty repair bill and one seriously uncomfortable situation. If you allow your car to overheat during a hot day you could damage your head gaskets or even go so far as to need a total rebuild of your engine... a very pricey mistake. If you see an engine temperature light or your gauge heads toward hot pull over and stop the car immediately. If your car hasn't overheated yet but you're getting concerned, turn the heat on and roll your windows down. This will draw heat out of the engine and is not an old wives tale. It works!
Have your Air Conditioning System Checked for Refrigerant Leaks: Before embarking on a family trip to the Grand Canyon have your air conditioning system checked for leaks and to ensure it is cooling properly. A quick stop and the AC A-OK from your mechanic can make all the difference. An enjoyable trip may hang in the balance and your future road trips could forever be at stake.
Replace Engine Air Filter and Cabin Air Filter: During hot or warm weather it is undeniable that there are more allergens, smog and toxins in the air. So change your filter that screens the air entering your cabin and engine. It just makes sense.
Replace Windshield Wipers: Spring showers now bring hot weather but that doesn’t mean it is impossible for there to be a summer thunderstorm. (Remember two summers ago when it rained all July? We do...) So if your wiper blades are dry and brittle have them replaced before the first downpours come. New windshield wipers will also make scraping those bugs off a lot easier, improving visibility and safety.
Check Condition of Engine Oil: Higher temperatures can lead to quicker deterioration of your engine oil so be sure to check it regularly. Every time you fill up the gas is a good rule of measure to live by. If it's looking low or off color, check your manual and buy the right type for your car from the gas station quick mart. This is a very cheap way to make sure your car is in top condition through rough driving conditions.
Bring Bottled Water and a Cooler of snacks with You: During the hot summer months you may suffer an unexpected breakdown (especially if your trusty jalopy is on the fritz anyway) and as such you should be sure to have water and some snacks in the car with you wherever you go. You never know how long you might be waiting for a tow truck and the kids complaining they're hungry and thirsty won't make anyone feel better.
Have Engine Battery Load tested: In extreme heat (hello desert trips!) engine batteries tend to die out more quickly. Have yours load tested to see if it is near the end of its life. It’s always best to change a battery before it dies rather than when it strands you somewhere.
Check Engine Coolant Level: Always check that there is plenty of coolant in the reservoir tank because if there isn’t, there isn’t enough in the engine where it belongs.
Check Radiator for Damage, any blockages: Over time, your radiator can get hit with road debris, insects and other detritus that can cause the coolant inside it not to flow properly and be cooled sufficiently. If this is the case, on a hot day your car could overheat quickly. If you suspect your car is overheating, stop the engine immediately or this could happen.
Always have a Charged Cell Phone with You: You can’t call for emergency services with a dead cell phone now, can you? Always keep a charger with you in the car just in case but if you’re really smart you’ll make sure the phone is charged before any drive.