Carson, CA – April 29, 2011 – Spring is officially here, Memorial Day is weeks away, and summer is right around the corner, with millions of drivers expected to head out on the nation’s highways. April, which is officially National Car Care month, is the perfect time for car owners to put basic car repair and maintenance tips into action to start ‘summer-izing’ their vehicles.
Consider the following statistics that make it more important than ever before for drivers to make sure their vehicle is vacation-travel ready:
- Millions of Breakdowns: Last year, the American Automobile Association (AAA) anticipated helping 9.3 million stranded motorists during the summer driving season and nearly half a million during the Memorial Day holiday weekend alone.1
- Older Vehicles: Consumers are holding onto new cars for a record 63.9 months, up 4.5 months from a year ago and 14 percent since the end of 2008 – when you add used cars, the average length of ownership stands at 52.2 months, which is also a record high.2
- More Miles Driven: Americans are driving more, logging nearly three trillion miles in 2010, the most vehicle miles traveled since 2007.3
Because Americans are driving more, in vehicles that are older than ever, and are gearing up to drive in warm summer months when breakdowns are common, the experts at AutoMD.com (http://www.AutoMD.com) offer the following tips to help car owners “summer-ize their car” for holiday travel, so they can ease on down the road instead of getting stranded alongside it.
Following are Top Ten Tips to Summer-ize your Car from AutoMD.com:
- Check the radiator and coolant level (Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is warm!).
The number one cause of vehicle breakdowns is engine overheating. Before you head out on that summer road trip, check the radiator fins for bugs and debris and check the coolant level in the overflow tank. The radiator fins help dissipate the heat when air passes through them, and if the fins are clogged, the airflow is reduced. Clear out any bugs & debris to maximize airflow. If the coolant level is low, there may be a leak. Not sure where the leak is coming from? Have your mechanic perform a pressure test.
- Check the coolant (antifreeze) mixture & condition.
Your car’s engine cooling system should be filled with a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and distilled water to prevent freezing, boiling over, and corrosion. Purchase an antifreeze tester at your local auto parts store to check the mixture. The condition or PH content of the coolant can be tested with chemically treated strips, but be aware the PH number is different for extended life coolant. Keep the cooling system operating at peak performance by following the manufacturer’s recommendations for changing the coolant (flush and fill). Replacing the thermostat with a coolant flush is often recommended.
- Check the tires.
Check your vehicle owner’s manual for proper tire inflation specs, and be sure the tread depth is at least 4/32". Underinflated tires increase roll resistance which, in turn, generates heat. Excessive heat can cause rubber fatigue and tread separation. Increased tire roll resistance also decreases your vehicle’s efficiency causing gas mileage to drop. To avoid unexpected tire failure, inspect your tires at every gasoline fill-up, especially during the summer months. And remember, by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure, you can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent. Furthermore, by replacing your tires with efficient ‘low rolling resistance’ tires, individual vehicles could save up to 6 percent of gasoline use.
- Change the engine oil.
Use the recommended oil viscosity range for summer which may be a bit thicker than winter. Always refer to your vehicle owner’s manual for the recommended oil type and viscosity. Most vehicle manufacturers recommend 5W-30 oil for year-round protection. To increase fuel efficiency and save money on gas, consider using an energy conserving or synthetic motor oil to reduce engine friction, improving efficiency by 1 – 2 percent, which in turn improves gas mileage.
- Check the battery and cable connections.
Heat is the leading cause of battery failure. It causes the water to evaporate in the electrolyte and promotes internal corrosion of the positive plates. Adding distilled water more frequently may be necessary for batteries that are not sealed. Check the battery cable connections at every oil change and clean and tighten them when necessary to avoid a variety of electrical problems. If the battery is older than four years, it may be time to replace it.
- Check the belts and hoses.
Hot weather can reduce the life expectancy of belts and hoses, so make sure yours are in good shape before hitting the road. Examine belts for cracks, nicks, frays, and glazing on the sides. A glazed belt, along with squealing or chirping sounds, could mean improper belt tension. When the motor is cool, squeeze the radiator hoses to check the rubber for soft or brittle spots. Hoses in good condition will be firm and flexible.
- Check the air conditioning system.
Before you head out, run your air conditioner to ensure you have cold air coming from the vents. If the air isn’t cold, chances are the refrigerant may be low due to a leak in the system. It’s best to have a certified technician repair the problem.
- Check the windshield wipers and spray nozzles.
Replace wipers that are cracked or worn, and check the nozzles for proper aim. If the nozzles are clogged, clean them with a needle. Use windshield washer fluid in the tank to prevent corrosion and remove stubborn dirt, grime and insects from your windshield.
- Check the emergency kit.
Make sure you equip your car with a first aid kit, a flashlight, jumper cables, water, towels, duct tape, reflecting triangle, and a basic tool set. A basic set of tools should include wrenches, sockets, a ratchet, screwdrivers, pliers, and a storage case.
- Slow down and take care.
Take it easy when driving in hot weather, especially if you’re towing a trailer or hauling a load. Driving slower puts less demand on your car’s engine and transmission, while helping to reduce the amount of gas you use in the process.
Check out AutoMD.com’s Top Fives for Fuel Efficient Summer Drives and AutoMD.com’s Top Five Repair Jobs You Can (and Should) Do Yourself, to help you save even more money at the gas pump. And as always, drive cautiously and safely to avoid unnecessary collisions while you travel.
- 1 AAA, AAA to Rescue Nearly a Half Million Motorists over Memorial Day Holiday Weekend as Summer Driving Season Kicks Off, May 25, 2010: http://www.aaanewsroom.net/main/Default.asp?CategoryID=4&ArticleID=773.
- 2 Matt Richtel, Consumers Hold On to Products Longer, February 25, 2011: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/26/business/26upgrade.html?_r=1.
- 3 Consumer Reports, Americans drove nearly 3,000,000,000,000 miles in 2010, March 3, 2011: http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2011/03/americans-drove-nearly-3-trillion-miles-in-2010-us-dot-traffic-levels-highest.html.