10 ways to prep your car for summer
1. If you use winter tires, change them. Winter tires have a softer compound and aggressive tread pattern that wear faster on hot asphalt, reducing their lifespan. Before putting them on, check your summer tires to be sure they’re in good shape, with no cracks or bulges. Even if you don’t change your tires, check the pressure in all of them, including the spare. Improper tire pressure wastes fuel and can affect safety. You’ll find the recommended pressure in the owner’s manual or on the label inside the driver’s door jamb, and not the number on the tire, which is the maximum it can hold.
2. Clean the undercarriage. Road salt can damage suspension components, which can eventually make the car dangerous to drive. Select the under-car spray at the car wash or use the do-it-yourself to clean thoroughly under the vehicle.
3. Clean the interior. Salt and slush take their toll on your carpets. Scrub with an all-purpose cleaner or carpet cleaner and let dry thoroughly. If it’s dirty enough, consider having it professionally cleaned.
4. Wash and wax the car. A coating of wax helps protect the paint and prevent a dull finish. If water doesn’t bead up, it’s time for new wax. Touch up any chips or scratches to prevent rust.
5. Empty the trunk. If you’ve been carrying emergency winter equipment such as bags of salt or sand, a shovel or an ice scraper, store them in the garage. Extra weight in the vehicle burns more fuel.
6. Consider an inspection. Getting the car checked in the spring and fall will catch minor problems before they turn into major ones. Have a technician check the radiator for leaks and coolant strength, ensure that hoses and belts are in good condition, that the air conditioning is working properly, and that the brakes and steering components aren’t worn. If you’re overdue on your oil change, get it done.
7. Open the windows and listen. Turn off the stereo and listen to your vehicle. There shouldn’t be any unusual sounds, such as brakes that grind or squeal, knocking sounds under the hood, or grinding or banging when you turn the wheel or go over a bump.
8. Check your wiper blades. Winter is hard on them, and it’s just as important that they work properly in summer showers as in winter snow. If they’re cracked or they leave streaks on the windshield, replace them. Make sure your washer fluid reservoir is full, too, since it can be hard to see through a dirty windshield if you’re driving into the sun.
9. Change the air filter. If it’s dirty, it’ll waste fuel. Most aren’t difficult to change and your owner’s manual will give you the step-by-step if you want to do it yourself.
10. Drive defensively. Don’t let down your guard just because you’re not dealing with snow and ice. You might be surprised to know that traffic fatalities are more likely on dry, sunny days.
It’s mostly because people tend to slow down and pay more attention in bad weather, but drive faster and concentrate less on nice days. There are more bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians out, too, so watch for them.
Relax on the patio, not behind the wheel.