| With economic concerns on most people’s minds, the old-fashioned auto vacation is poised for a comeback, as families looking for convenience and ready mobility over the expense of air travel to exotic destinations. |
But with summer weather, comes special automotive maintenance challenges; extreme heat, humidity, and heavy stop-and-go traffic can cause marginal systems to fail.
The experts at the non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) offer the following tips on getting your vehicle ready for your summer vacation:
- Read the owner’s manual and follow the recommended service schedules. The manual contains a complete checklist of services and schedules and other important information about your vehicle.
- If you are not a do-it-yourselfer, look for repair facilities with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own, modern equipment in the service bays, and signs of qualified automotive technicians as evidenced by trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work and training classes, as well as national certification of the individual technicians by ASE.
- Flush and refill the cooling system (radiator) according to the service manual’s recommendations. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. If you are doing your own work, make sure the engine has cooled down before removing the radiator cap and make sure you choose the proper coolant for your vehicle make and model.
- Have engine performance problems--hard starts, rough idling, stalling--corrected. You’ll get better gasoline mileage and you might just prevent more expensive repairs later on. For example, something as simple as a rough idle could indicate an underlying problem that could ruin your vehicle’s catalytic converter over time. The old adage, “Pay me now or pay me later,” is especially true with today’s high-tech, computerized systems.
- The tightness and condition of belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a qualified auto technician. Most do-it-yourselfers do not have the proper equipment. But weekenders can look for signs of wear, cracking, or frayed belts. And, once again, don’t ignore the service schedules listed in the owner’s manual.
- Have a marginally operating air conditioner system serviced by a qualified technician. The air conditioners on older vehicles often contain ozone-depleting chemicals that could be released into the air through improper or incompetent service.
- Change the oil and oil filter as specified in owner’s manual. (Properly dispose of used oil.) Polls of ASE-certified technicians indicate that this is one of the most neglected services, and one that can greatly reduce the life of your automobile, light truck, or SUV.
- Replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, etc.) as recommended in the service manual.
- Check the condition of tires, including the spare. Let the tires “cool down” before checking their pressure. Uneven wear, ‘cupping,’ vibrations, or ‘pulling’ to one side indicates problems with your tires or suspension system.
- Don’t neglect your transmission. Costly repairs can be prevented by routine service.
- For safety and convenience, inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs. Replace worn wiper blades and keep plenty of washer solvent on hand to fight summer’s dust and insects.