Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Prepare Your Car For Heat Before Heading to the Hills

Alford Cemter Road, Alford, Mass.
(Guest Post) With Memorial Day fast approaching, it's nearly time to flee the heat of the city and relax in the rolling terrain of western Massachusetts. Whether you're day-tripping to Mt. Greylock or settling in for a week by the lake, the combination of peaking mercury and steep grades can take a toll on your car.

When your goal is to relax, car problems are the last thing you want to worry about. Before hitting the road, even if it's just for an afternoon jaunt, it's smart to make sure that your vehicle is prepared. Take five minutes to breeze through this simple checklist and you'll greatly reduce your chance of spending your vacation or your Sunday afternoon waiting on a tow truck.

  • Battery Check

  • High temperatures can cause the electrolyte solution in car batteries to evaporate, speeding the corrosion of the battery's positive plates in the process. Keep your battery in good shape by checking your fluid levels. Simply pop open the vent caps (it's usually a rubber seal on top of the battery) and look inside. If the levels are low, add distilled water until it reaches the bottom of the vent wells -- don't fill it to overflowing.
    If you see corrosion around your terminals, wipe it away with an ounce of cola and a rag you can throw away.

  • Oil Check

  • Believe it or not, that hot oil in your engine actually keeps those moving, metal parts cool. If your levels are low, the engine runs hotter. Keep a rag in your car and check your oil dipstick every time you fill up with gas.

  • Coolant Check

  • When the temperature is even in the 80s outside, it's likely 40 or 50 degrees hotter under your hood, and your coolant can peak at over 200° F. With your engine cold, check the coolant reservoir for both level and cleanliness. If the coolant looks dirty, flush it out to prevent residue from clogging up the flow of coolant to your radiator.

  • Tire Check

  • Hot pavement quickly takes a toll on the rubber in your tires, making proper inflation all the more crucial during the summer. Under inflation can cause heat to build up inside the tire by increasing rolling resistance, leading to a blowout in the worst cases. Keep a tire gauge in your glovebox and check your inflation while the tires are cool. The proper PSI should be printed on the side of your tires.

  • Hose Check

  • The hoses carrying fluids around your engine don't last forever, and they're easily replaced. Heat speeds up their deterioration, and leaking coolant can ultimately leave you stranded if it's not remedied. Look for cracks and leaks along the hoses in your engine, squeezing them to find spongy spots while the engine is cool. Most hoses you might need are available at auto parts stores, and the employees there are often willing to help with hose changes that are easily accessible.

  • A/C Check

  • If your air conditioning system has a filter (check your manual to find out), it probably needs to be replaced each year. Keeping a fresh filter installed will maximize airflow and your own comfort. Although most A/C work requires professional expertise, you can check under the hood that the belt driving your compressor is taut and not coming loose.
    Don't let car problems stand in the way of getting out to explore western Massachusetts this summer. With your coach running in tip-top shape, there are few better places in the country for a leisurely drive. Enjoy it!

    The author of this article is John Egan, managing editor of Car Insurance Quotes, a leading online provider of car insurance news.