If you’re like me and you grew up in Arizona, then you know summer to be the time when you need to do everything you can to avoid the apocalyptic rays of the sun and escape those scorching temperatures that aim to sear your brain. But for everyone else, summer is when you want to get out and have some fun, forgetting the cold and dark of winter as you enjoy the sunshine and warm weather. That’s all well and good, but to be able to do that, you must take proper care of your vehicle so that it will run beautifully throughout the summer.
Whether you’re looking to take your vehicle to your local Toyota service center, work on it yourself, or head to your preferred mechanic to have your maintenance performed, getting it done properly is crucial. A lot of this needs to be done once or twice each year, and the warm, clear summer weather is the perfect time to handle it.
I know you don’t want to spend a precious day off dealing with this stuff, but I assure you that it’s better than spending a week without your vehicle because it overheated and now needs TLC. So let’s review some basic things to handle to keep your vehicle in great shape all summer.
#1) Change Your Oil & Filter
You should generally follow the service schedule prescribed in your vehicle’s owner’s manual; if you haven’t been doing that, you should take care of it now. Heat and cold both affect your engine’s motor oil, which is why you should keep the weather in mind. Since the purpose of that oil is to help keep your engine running smoothly and to avoid overheating, you definitely want fresh oil in there when it starts heating up outside.
#2) Test Your A/C Early and Often
Remember how I said I grew up in Arizona? Well, one of the first things you learn about riding around in (and then driving) cars is the importance of the air conditioning or climate control system. You should test your A/C before things get too hot, change the air filter on it, and ensure it’s in great shape. If it’s not running as it should, have that taken care of right away to help avoid you and your engine from overheating.
#3) Top-Off Your Engine Fluids
The oil in your engine isn’t the only fluid running through your vehicle, and most of these can be affected by heat and cold. Summer is the perfect time to check other fluids in your vehicle, including your engine’s coolant, transmission and brake fluid, windshield wiper fluid, and more. Coolant is particularly important since your engine desperately needs it to keep cool when it’s hot out, so check it early and ensure it’s in good shape throughout the summer.
#4) Check Your Tire Air Pressure
Heat and cold also affect the air pressure in your tires; air expands and contracts based on outside temperatures. As things start warming up, be sure to check the air pressure in your tires and adjust it as needed to keep it where it should be. This is something you should check on a regular basis—not just once in a while—and throughout the year, not only in summer. Some vehicles have inboard tire pressure monitors; if yours does, heed its warnings.
#5) Test Your Battery
I may sound like a broken record, but heat and cold can also affect your car’s battery, as outside temperatures can impact how well it maintains a charge. Summer is the perfect time to have your battery checked and to replace it if needed; you’re better off dealing with it now than in six months, in the dark and knee-deep in snow.
#6) Adjust Your Alignment
Winter weather—particularly ice and snow—can be especially hard on your vehicle’s alignment. Between the freezing temperatures, unexpected clumps of ice on the road, and hidden potholes, your car’s alignment might have taken a lot of abuse in the last few months. This is the perfect time to have it checked and adjusted to keep your car running beautifully.
#7) Rotate or Replace Your Tires
This is also the perfect time to check the condition of your tires and rotate them if they’re at that stage in their use. If you live somewhere where winter tires are advantageous, then this is also the time to swap back to your summer or all-season tires if you haven’t already. If you need new tires, then get them now so you don’t have to worry about them when the mercury starts to drop.
#8) Have Your Brakes Inspected
If you already have your vehicle raised to get your oil changed or your tires checked, you ought to take advantage and have your brakes checked, too. This is something you should do on a regular basis, and summer is a better time than others for it. You don’t want to discover your brakes are worn out or need to be replaced when you’re doing 70 mph on the freeway.
#9) Check Your Windshield Wipers
This can seem silly, and incredibly easy to do, but it’s also very important. Winter is rough on windshield wipers, especially if you live somewhere with snow and ice, so go ahead and check them now to see if they’re still in good shape. If you tend to drive in summer rainstorms, you’ll want to know your wipers work properly before hitting the road. Replacing them is cheap and easy, also infinitely preferable to a crash caused by poor visibility.
#10) Clean Out Your Car
No one wants to crouch down in the snow, clearing out trash, so take advantage of the nice weather to clean your car—not just outside, but inside, too. Trust me—you don’t want to discover that a child left a crayon in your car by finding the pool of melted wax it’s turned into from summer heat. Clean out your car now; while it’s a simple chore, your passengers will thank you.
#11) Review Your Emergency Supplies
This is also a fantastic time to check the emergency supplies you keep in your vehicle. (You do have emergency supplies and a small first aid kit in your car, right?) Check to ensure nothing needs to be replaced or refreshed, especially any medication like painkillers you may have in your first aid kit. This is also a great time to ensure you have several water bottles in a shady spot in your car, just in case, since they can be a lifesaver in an emergency.
Use This Time to Verify Your Roadworthiness
We all want to relax and enjoy ourselves this summer, but it’s worth it to take a day or two and handle all of this stuff before going on a road trip or embracing the warm weather. Most of this can be done quickly, and even the more complicated stuff could be handled with a single trip to your preferred service center. Taking proper care of your vehicle is the best way to ensure it will take good care of you and keep running well while you enjoy the summer.
You should be able to focus on having a great time with friends and family, not worried about a strange sound your engine started making, or what that weird smell is, or wondering if that new vibration you feel is due to your alignment, your suspension, the brakes, or something else! Take care of things ahead of time so you can relax and enjoy what summer has to offer.