Summer means road-trip season throughout the Okanagan and beyond. After a seemingly endless winter you are looking forward to warmer weather, so you can enjoy the sandy beaches, explore scenic back roads, or endure a visit to your in-laws (which will seem even longer than the endless winter). No matter what adventures you plan to take, make sure you prepare your car for summer so it’s just as ready to hit the road as you are.
Here are some summer car tips to prepare:
If you have not swapped your winter tires for summer tires yet, you better get at it. Winter tires are great in the snow and ice, but they perform poorly on the boiling hot pavement because of how soft they are. This extra squish is beneficial when rolling over crunchy snow and pokey ice, but on the hot, flat, pavement they lose traction and handling performance. These soft tires will also wear quicker which will only end up costing you money.
If you already do have your summer tires on (gold star!), inspect them before you go on any extended trips. If you notice any uneven wear or bubbles in the side walls, it is time to replace them. Check the air pressure and make sure it matches the manufacturer’s recommended PSI, found in your owner’s manual or the sticker inside your driver’s door jamb.
We already know that oil is the lifeblood of a car and without it, your car can, and will, fantastically fail. So, before going on any long journeys, definitely take the time to check your oil. If it meets the fill line and is not a thick sludge than you are good to go. If it is low, and still not a thick sludge, top it up with the appropriate type of oil, which will, of course, be found in your all-knowing owner’s manual. If your oil is thick sludge, then make a pit stop and get it changed.
Coolant is another important fluid to check. The name basically says it all, it keeps your engine cool. You can check this by checking your radiator reservoir under the hood of your car. If you are unsure where this might be located, check in with your trusty owner’s manual. Do not open the radiator cap when the engine is hot. A geyser of boiling hot fluid will rush out and you will be in danger of getting some pretty serious burns. If your coolant is low, and you feel confident in your abilities to top it up yourself, just make sure you are using the right kind. I will let you guess where you might find this information.
Steering is an important aspect of driving, so before hitting the road take a quick look at your power steering fluid. Keeping it topped up and clean will prevent difficulty steering and failure of the power steering pump. The all mighty owner’s manual will have information on where and how to check this fluid. If the fluid appears to be muddy brown, book your car in for a power steering system flush and fluid change.
Windshield washing fluid might not be lubricating or cooling anything, but it does help you see the road, and since you’re the brains of this operation that is important. This is an easy one because your car is not very picky when it comes to washer fluid, so you can basically pick whichever one looks like your favorite flavor of Kool-Aid.
Everyone wants to look their best when bathing suit season rolls around, and when you prepare your car for summer, it’s no different. Winter can be hard on the exterior and interior and a good detailing is key. Road salt can build up on the paint, in the wheels wells, and on the undercarriage. In time this will lead to rust, so make sure to give your car a thorough washing with a dedicated car soap and get into all those nooks and crannies.
If the paint feels rough even after the car is clean, decontaminate it by either using a detailing clay bar or book it in for a quick decontamination and sealant package. Brake dust and tiny particles from the environment get stuck in the clear coat and will eventually eat through it, down into the paint, and then the metal. This is where rust comes from. Apply a sealant after decontaminating to protect from environmental enemies and the harsh UV rays from the sun.
Do a thorough clean out of the interior. You do not need that Tim Horton’s cup from 5 months ago. Plus, dirt and debris on any material in your car will cause premature wear, making things look shabby well before their time. The cabin of your car is also a breeding ground for germs and bacteria, making it hard for them to set up camp there by shampooing carpets and disinfecting surfaces. Apply a conditioner to your vinyl and leather to prevent drying and cracking in the sweltering heat.
Road Trip Check List
It only takes a little bit of time out of your busy day to really be a Boy Scout and Be Prepared. No one wants to break down on the side of the road but sometimes life isn’t fair, and these things happen. When they do, why not make it as seamless as possible?
We talked about tires earlier in this article, but as fifth wheels so often do, it got left out. The spare tire, that is. Check up on that lonely tire and make sure it’s present and in working order.
Now, you have to check on your spare tire and it’s doing well, but you would feel pretty silly if you needed to change a flat tire and you have made sure the spare is alright but neglected the jack. Take it out, set it up, make sure all the parts are accounted for.
Put together a little emergency kit for your car. It does not have to be extravagant, you are not Bear Grylls. Some essential emergency kit items for your car include:
- First aid kit
- Jumper cables
- Energy bars
- Roadmap (the paper kind)
It would also be a good idea to keep an extra liter or two of fluids, such as oil or washer fluid. Of course, there are many things you can add to your emergency kit, and no one is stopping you from turning your car into a search and rescue worthy vehicle. Figure out what works for you.
Get Out There
The best course of action is to keep up with general maintenance on your car to avoid any mechanical disasters in the future. The more you know about what’s going on under your hood, the better you can plan and well prepare your car for summer. These tips will help you make the most out of your summer and avoid wasting time being on the side of the road. So, get out there and start enjoying, because in five short months winter will be upon us again!