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How to Get Your Car Ready to Cruise into Summer


s the summer approaches, you may be thinking of taking your car out for a long leisurely cruise or a family vacation. Though you may not realize it, winter has been hard on your car. Your carís body is not looking its best. Itís been exposed to road salt and ice, acid rain, air pollution, and ultra-violet light. All of these factors are damaging and may contribute to a breakdown, not to mention accelerating the aging (and the value) of your car. Before you find yourself stranded at the side of the road, there are a few simple things you can do to help avoid problems.


HOSES AND BELTS. These items are vital for the operation of the engine. The hoses flow the coolant through the car to keep the engine cool, and the belts run the fan to bring air in and keep the coolant cold. If a hose breaks or disconnects, your radiator will run dry. The result? Your car will overheat and die. Ditto if the belts break. So check the hoses for cracks or splits. When rubber ages, it becomes soft, so touch them to see if they are spongy ó they should feel hard and firm. Also check the o-ring connectors to make sure they are secure. If they are loose, the hoses may disconnect. In terms of the belts, do a visual check. If you see the fabric coming through the housing of the belts, itís time to replace them.

RADIATOR AND COOLANT LEVEL. First check for leaks in the radiator ó look under your parked car for any suspicious puddles where the radiator is. Then check the radiator cap and make sure itís on tight. There is an o-ring under the cap to help seal the cap to the radiator, so make sure its rubber is not aging. But remember: ALWAYS CHECK THIS WHEN THE CAR IS NOT RUNNING. Make sure it has been sitting for a while and has cooled down. Otherwise, you could receive a nasty burn if all the hot steam comes rushing out at you. To check the coolant level, all you have to do is look. There is an overflow reservoir which has marks on it to show the level of coolant.

OIL. Check by looking at the dipstick. Make sure your car is parked on a level surface. The engine should be warm, so let it run for a few minutes, then turn the engine off and check. Not only should you look at the level of the oil, but also see if the oil is dirty. If it is dark instead of a bronze or golden color, then you need to change the oil. Oil needs to be clean to keep dirt particles out of the engine.

BATTERY. You may think that battery failures only happen in the extreme cold, but extreme heat is more brutal on a car battery. Heat speeds up chemical reactions, which can burn out the battery and prevent it from producing current. That translates into a dead car. So check to see if there is corrosion on the battery terminals. If so, clean it off with a rag ó a dirty connection will prevent electricity from flowing. Make sure the battery cable connections and the ground wire are tight. If the connection is not good, you may find yourself stranded. If your battery is old, it may not be fully charged. Take it to any service station and in around ten minutes, they can do a load check.

TIRES. Check the pressure in each of your tires at least once a month. Your ownerís manual will tell you what the recommended pressure is. If a tire is under inflated on a hot summer day, it is handling a heavier load. When tires work harder, they create more friction with the road, which builds up more heat. This can put stress on a tire and possibly cause blowouts and tread separation. If youíve ever experienced this  ó your car suddenly careening out of control at 60 mph across a four lane highway ó you already know this is a life threatening situation. Most flat tires are actually caused by the wrong pressure in the tire.

Also check the tread. If it is worn down, you will have less traction on the road. In a rainstorm, this may translate to hydroplaning ó you are literally driving on water instead of on the road ó and you are liable to loose control of your car. An easy way to check the tread is to take a penny and put it in the tread of the tire. If Lincolnís head disappears, your tread is good. 

Donít forget to check out your spare tire too.

To be completely thorough, replace filters, windshield wipers and blades, fill up on windshield washer solvent, and inspect your lights and bulbs. Replace burned-out bulbs and clean all lenses ó dirty lights make it harder for you to see the road and for other drivers to see you.

Take care of your car, and it will take care of you. Neglect it, and you may end up with a migraine as you wait on the side of the road for a tow truck.



Also see:

Safety Issues for Cars & Drivers  

Buckling Up for Two -Your baby's first ride is in your womb.  Tips to make sure she stays safe.

Driving Safely with Disabilities -People all across America are driving with disabilities requiring special modifications.

Important Tips About Child Restraints-Part 2 -continuation of car seat safety.

Important Tips About Child Restraints-Part 3 -final chapter of the car seat series.


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