Summer's heat, dust, and stop-and-go traffic will take their toll on your vehicle. Add the effects of last winter, and you could be poised for a breakdown. You can lessen the odds of mechanical failure through periodic maintenance. Your vehicle should last longer and command a higher resale price, too!
Some of the following tips are easy to do, while others require a skilled auto technician:
A marginally operating system will fail in hot weather. Have the system examined by a qualified technician. Newer model vehicles have cabin air filters that clean the air entering the heating and air conditioning system. Check your owner's manual for location and replacement interval.
The most significant cause of summer breakdowns is overheating. The cooling system should be thoroughly flushed and refilled about every 24 months. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. (A 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water is usually recommended.) Never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled. The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a pro.
Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your vehicle's owners manual. Oil should be changed more often (every 3,000 miles) if you make frequent short jaunts, extended trips with lots of luggage, or tow a trailer.
Replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, etc.) as recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer. Filters should be changed more often in dusty condition. Engine drivability problems such as hard starts, rough idling, stalling, and diminished power should be promptly corrected.
A dirty windshield causes eye fatigue and can pose a safety hazard. Replace worn blades at the first signs of wear, and keep windshield washer solvent filled.
Periodically inspect all lights and replace burned out bulbs. This is also a good time to clean dirt and insects from all light lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag.
Have your tires rotated about every 5,000 miles. Check tire pressures once a month while they are cold before driving any distance. Be sure to also check your spare tire as well and confirm that the jack is in working condition. Examine tires for tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping. Also check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. An alignment is warranted if there's uneven tread wear or if your vehicle pulls to one side.
Brakes should be inspected as recommended in your owner's manual or sooner if you notice pulsations, grabbing, noises, or longer stopping distance. Minor brake problems should be corrected promptly.
Batteries can fail any time of year. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. For routine care: scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; re-tighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check the fluid level monthly. Be sure to avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid, and wear eye protection and rubber gloves.
Plan for Emergencies
Carry some basic tools, as well as a first aid kit, flares, and a flashlight.