Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer Heat

Summer is the time for hot, humid days and trips in the car.  Heat and humidity can really do a number on your vehicle.  General maintenance will help you avoid most roadside breakdowns and you can read more about that here.  I'm going to talk to you a little about what to look at before you hit the road.

It's always important that you look your car over regularly, especially if you are going to be driving out of town.  Here are a few things to look at.  (Remember to refer to your owner's manual to find where your fluid reservoirs are if you are unsure.)
  • Coolant:  Do this first because you always want to check your coolant when the engine is cool.  *Never touch your radiator or cooling system when your car is hot or even lukewarm.  It is safe to open the radiator cap or touch your cooling system once the engine is cool.*
    • Look at your recovery tank.  Check to see that the fluid level is up to the 'min' or 'cold' mark on the side.
    • Carefully open the radiator cap.  The fluid should be about 2 inches from the top.  Replace the radiator cap and make sure that it's tight.  If the levels are high in one area and low in the other, give your repair facility a call because there could be a clog in the overflow hose.  If levels are both OK, then you are good to go!  If levels are low, call your local repair facility to see if they can top you off before you hit the road.
    • *Not all coolants are created equal!  Only add your own coolant (diluted with water 50/50) if you know for sure what type of coolant your car takes!  If you are unsure, call your local repair facility.  Serious damage can occur if you use the wrong type of coolant, especially in newer vehicles.  Also, different vehicles add coolant in different ways and sometimes the ratio of coolant to water needs to be adjusted.*

  • Engine Oil:  Make sure your car is on level ground and if it has been running, let it sit for a few minutes so the oil goes back into the pan for a better reading.
    • Locate your dipstick and pull it out.  Wipe it clean with a rag or a paper towel.  Look at your dipstick and locate the marks on it.  The one closest to the tip is 'low' (or empty) and the one furthest from the tip is the 'high' (or full).
    • Put the clean dipstick back in and remove it again.  Look to see where the oil is.  It should be about 3/4 of the way to the top mark.
    • Check the quality of your oil.  If it looks like dark olive oil (or light brown in color) then you have nice, clean oil.  If it is dark brown, then it is old and will need to be changed soon, call your repair facility and make an appointment.  If you see any color (like red), milky color, water spots, specks of dirt or metal flecks in your oil, call your repair facility.  That is a sign of a more serious problem and you do not want that vehicle on the road.
    • If you need to add oil, make sure you have the same kind of oil that was put in at your last oil change (5/20, 5/30, 10/30, synthetic, etc.).  Add it to the engine through the oil cap (not through the dipstick).  Add a quart at a time and let it fill into the pan and check the level before adding more.  Do not overfill your oil pan (don't exceed 3/4 of the way to the top mark on your dipstick).  Clean up any oil that may have spilled and put the cap firmly back on.

  • Brake Fluid:  Do this with your car off.
    • Find the brake fluid cap.  Open it up and check the level.  It should be about 1/4 inch from the top of the reservoir.  Check the quality of the fluid by putting a finger in it.  If it's gritty feeling, you'll need to get it changed.
    • If you need to add a little more, slowly pour brake fluid into the reservoir until it's 1/4 inch from the top of the reservoir.  Clean the inside of the cap and replace it tightly.  Throw out your unused brake fluid in the bottle.  It will absorb contaminants sitting around and won't work well if dirty.  If your fluid seems to get low often, call your repair facility to get it checked.

  • Power Steering Fluid:  Can be checked at anytime.
    • Remove the power steering reservoir cap and clean the dipstick on the bottom of the cap.  Look at the two marks.  The mark closest to the tip shows where the fluid should be when the car is cool.  The mark furthest from the tip shows where the fluid should be when the car is warm.
    • Reinsert the clean dipstick, take it out and see where the fluid is.  Also examine the color.  It should be clear or yellow.  If it is a different color, call your repair facility to check it out.
    • If you need to add a little, carefully add it to the appropriate mark on the dipstick.  You can keep an open bottle of power steering fluid to use later if it is capped.

  • Transmission Fluid:  This is for automatic transmissions.  Make sure your car is on level ground and let the car idle.
    • Open up the cap on the fluid reservoir and wipe the dipstick clean.  Find the two grooves on the dipstick (usually F for full and E for empty).  
    • Reinsert dipstick and remove.  Check the fluid level.  Also look at the quality of the fluid.  It should be warm (not hot) and it should be red in color.  If it has bubbles, call your repair facility to have it checked out.  This can mean that it's time for your fluid to get changed.  If it smells burned, call your repair facility to have it checked.  This can mean that there is a possibility that something mechanical is going wrong with your transmission.
  • Clutch Fluid:  This is for manual transmissions.  
    • Clean off your clutch fluid master cylinder with a rag.  Open the cap and look inside.  The level should be about 1/4 inch from the lip of the reservoir.  
    • If you need to add a little more fluid, you can use brake fluid.  Slowly pour it in until the level is 1/4 inch from the lip of the reservoir.  Dispose of remaining brake fluid as described above.

  • Windshield Wipers:
    • Check your wiper blades for any tears or cracks in the rubber.  Wipe them clean with a damp rag.  Check the windshield wiper fluid and add as needed.
    • Replacing your own wiper blades is an easy task.  Just make sure that you measure the length of the wiper blades you have, or check in your car's manual for the correct size of blades to use.  Then follow directions in the manual on how to remove and replace your wiper blades.
  • Belts and Hoses:
    • It is important to look at your belts and hoses.  Check for cracks in the rubber.  Squeeze your hoses to feel for any soft spots.  Check your belts for any missing rubber pieces.  If you suspect that your belts and hoses are showing a lot of wear, call your local repair facility.

  • Tire Pressure and Tread:
    • Check your tire pressure and look at the wear of the tire.  Use a tire pressure gauge to check each tire.  To find the information of how much pressure there should be, you can look in your car's manual.  You can also look at the tag on the inside of the driver's side door.  It will tell you what size of tire you should have on your car and it will also tell you how much pressure in the front and back you need.  Do not over fill your tires.  To check the tread, use a penny.  Put the top of the penny into a groove of the tread.  It should be at or covering the top of Lincoln's head.  If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, then you need to call your repair facility and get some new tires.  Also look for wear on the sides of the tires.  If you see any bulges or funny looking soft spots on your tires, have them checked by your repair facility.
  • Lights and Blinkers:  It's easiest if you have another person to help, or something that you can place behind and in front of your car so you can see the reflection of the lights.  If not, you can still do this by getting out of the car to look.
    • Check your car's lights and blinkers by turning the key to the 'on' position.  Step on the brakes and see if all brake lights come on.  Turn on your headlights and look to see if they are both working on the regular setting and on high too.  Then check the blinkers.  Turn on one side and look at front and back, then do the other side checking the front and back.  If you have any lights not working, call your local repair facility.  If your blinkers are blinking very fast or not in a pattern, call your repair facility to have it checked out.

An important thing to remember is that if you suspect that anything is wrong, to have an ASE certified technician check it for you.  If you know you are going on a long trip, make an appointment for an oil change a week or two before you go.  This will give you time to be able to make any repairs that could keep you safe on the road before you leave.  Keep your tires well inflated, it will help your gas mileage!  If you find that you need to fill or 'top off' your fluid reservoirs often or you see spots accumulate on the ground under your car, take it in to see where your car has a leak and what is leaking.  This will help you avoid costly repairs.

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe summer!


1 comment:

  1. Excellently amazing and exciting too. Can you please mention me the source of your reference... I am happy that at least somebody gave this subject an attention.
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