Friends, the summer travel season is here. Soon, like countless Canucks, you’ll likely be hitting the road in whatever you drive for an extended period, to partake in camping, visiting, voyages and adventures with your loved ones.
It’s a great time of year and also an important time of year to ensure your ride is in tip-top shape before it’s made to handle the rigours of summertime motoring.
Summer pushes your ride to its limit. Loaded with passengers, gear, a trailer, and used in extreme heat with the air conditioner blasting, your vehicle is going to get hot, work hard, and be tested to the extreme.
It’s in this sort of driving where poorly-maintained components tend to show themselves, and below, we’ll look at a few simple tips to make sure that’s not the case on any of your summer travels.
A little pre-road trip TLC can go a long way toward preventing an unexpected end to your road trip, on the hottest day of the year, with a car full of sweaty, angry family members.
Oil change and inspection: Whether at a private shop or your ride’s dealer, a full visual inspection and oil change is a great starting point for summer travel peace of mind. For summer, many repair centres offer package deals on an oil change combined with an enhanced inspection of your ride’s various components.
Track down a service centre that can change your oil and inspect your charging system, AC system, cooling system, tires, brakes, battery and electronics system in a single visit. A summer maintenance package is often a cheap and quick way to ensure your ride is in top shape for the summer ahead.
If you’ll be doing plenty of driving in the heat but don’t quite need an oil change yet, consider having one anyways: You can’t overchange engine oil, and ensuring your engine oil is fresh and clean is one of the best things you can do for your ride’s powerplant ahead of severe use in summer driving.
Tires and brakes: By now, you should have removed your winter tires for the warm weather season. If you haven’t, you’ll suffer poor fuel mileage, increased tire wear, reduced handling and increased road noise.
Assuming you’ve got on the proper tires for the summer travel season, be sure to inspect each one: Confirm proper inflation pressure as per your owner’s manual, and touch and look at the inner and outer sidewall of each tire to confirm that there’s no splitting, cracking, bubbling or other damage, possibly caused by a pothole strike. It’s sometimes hard to spot tire damage, which can lead to blowouts and collisions, so look carefully.
Check the circumference of each wheel rim, too, confirming that they’re free of damage which can cause a leak or blowout. Now’s the time to check your spare tire as well: Spend a moment ensuring any release mechanisms are in proper working order and that the tire is properly inflated, so it’s in good order should you need it.
Finally, give your brakes a little assessment: Use them lightly and moderately with the windows down and stereo off, noting that any audible squealing or squeaking sounds in the process are an invitation to have the system looked at by a professional. Feel the brake pedal, noting that a dull pulsation, a gravelly or grinding sensation, or a weak and spongy pedal feel all indicate problems that could affect your ability to stop safely in a fully-loaded vehicle.
Keep things cool: The summertime heat is hard on many parts of your ride, and two especially — the AC system and your ride’s cooling system. Confirm proper performance of your ride’s AC system before your trip and ensure the cabin air filter isn’t overdue for replacement, as this commonly-overlooked bit of maintenance is a leading cause of AC system problems and failure.
If the system seems weak, fails to engage properly, or shows you a flashing light on the dash-mounted AC switch, have a professional investigate. You may also want to ensure that the AC condenser, typically located in your front bumper, is free of debris like leaves and dead bugs, for maximum system performance.
Your engine needs to stay cool, too: So now’s the time to consider a cooling system flush and fill if required, to check the level and condition of the engine coolant otherwise, and to have your ride inspected for any coolant leaks or worn components, which are more likely to cause failure in extreme heat.
Keep fuel costs down: This could be a record-setting summer for prices at the pumps, so be sure that your ride is running a new, clean engine air filter, that its alignment is perfect, that all tires are inflated to proper pressures, and that no Check Engine light is illuminated in your instrument cluster. Doing so helps ensure your vehicle goes as far as possible on every tank of fuel. If in doubt, ask your favourite technician for help.