The kids will soon be out of school, which means it’s time to get your vehicle ready for summer. Before packing the camping gear, coolers or suitcases, take a little bit of time to make sure your car, truck or SUV is ready for whatever you might encounter in your travels. A few simple checks will tell you if a visit to your dealer’s service department is called for.
The importance of a fully functioning air conditioning system in the warmer months is hard to overstate, especially if you have kids. To make sure your A/C will work when you need it, test it out now. Start the engine and crank the temperature control down to its coldest level. Gradually increase the fan speed from off to high, and make sure the system is blowing air like it should. Don’t forget to check the rear vents, if you have them, for air flow, and check all the vents to make sure nothing is broken or stuck. Bad smells coming from the vents could be caused by either something in the system or just plain old mold and mildew. Smells can be taken care of by dealer service technicians, who can usually clean out the ducts as well.
If the fan isn’t working properly, make sure to check the fuses and replace any that might have blown. It’s also a good idea to keep a small package of spare fuses in the glove box in case you need one on the road. Your owner’s manual should have a diagram that indicates which fuse handles which function.
Within a couple of minutes of starting your vehicle, you should feel cold air coming from the vents. If not, various problems could be the cause. Over time, the air conditioning compressor belt can dry out and crack or stretch, which can impact compressor function. Newer hybrid electric vehicles usually have electric-drive compressors, so they don’t have a belt. If the belt is in good shape, the system may need a recharge. Over the course of several years of use, refrigerant circuit can leak out. When this happens, the A/C system can’t chill the air passing through the cooling core, and having the air conditioning system recharged will get your climate control back to new condition. Less commonly, a bad compressor can also be the cause of A/C problems. Report the results of your testing to your service tech, who will use the info to quickly diagnose and correct any problems that might exist.
With the passenger environment taken care of, it’s time to check the engine cooling system. Check the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual to see if your vehicle is due for a cooling system flush. Even if the cooling system doesn’t need a flush, check all the hoses for leaks or bulges that might indicate an impending failure. Then, when the engine is running, check the temperature gauge in the instrument panel and make sure the engine isn’t overheating. If the temperature is getting too high, that could indicate either a blockage somewhere or a stuck thermostat.
When most people think to check their tire pressure, they check the four tires they roll on; unfortunately most drivers neglect the spare tire. After you check the pressure in your main tires, make sure the spare is properly inflated as well, just in case you get a flat on the road. If your vehicle is equipped with a mini spare, check the recommended pressure on the tire sidewall, because these small donuts usually require higher pressures.
Next, make sure you carry an up-to-date first aid kit and some flares. Many people also carry a gallon jug of water in the summer. It’s a good idea to check all exterior lights and replace burned out bulbs. Carrying a few extras bulbs can also get you out of a jam when you’re away from home.
If you have roadside assistance through your vehicle’s maker, keep the phone number in your glovebox or console and also in your wallet or purse. If not, make sure you have somewhere to call in an emergency when you travel. AAA is the traditional standby for roadside service, but many cell phone providers also provide very affordable service options that will bring you gas, jump start a dead battery or give you a tow.
Summer is a great time to visit family or see other parts of the country. To maximize the fun and keep stress to a minimum, take the time to make sure your ride is well-maintained before you leave. Stop by and we’ll get your car summer-ready in no time.