Get your vehicle ready for summer Print E-mail
Wednesday, 31 May 2017
GUIDON staff

Drivers are reminded each fall to get their vehicles ready for winter. But spring maintenance is equally important — if not more so — to keep your car, truck or motorcycle running smoothly and safely as we head into the peak driving season of summer.

It’s no secret that extreme temperatures can increase the normal amount of wear and tear on your vehicle and its various systems.

Whether you choose to do the maintenance yourself or take your vehicle to a qualified mechanic, safety experts with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center Driving Directorate and others recommend getting into the habit of checking your vehicle each spring and fall to decrease the likelihood of breakdowns, blow-outs and maintenance-related problems on the road.

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Courtesy photo
Make a checklist


Your spring vehicle-safety checklist should include tires, belts and hoses, wiper blades, your vehicle’s cooling system, fluid levels, lights and air conditioning.

If you need to know what settings, readings, replacement parts and other products are best for your vehicle’s make and model, your owner’s manual is a good place to start.

— Tire checks involve checking your air pressure and tread wear. Maintaining correct tire pressure is a vitally important safety measure, and the NHTSA recommends checking it at least once a month to make sure your tires are properly inflated.

Use a reliable tire gauge, and only check your tires when they are cold — meaning they haven’t been driven for at least three hours. You can find the correct pressure for your tires listed on a label inside the driver’s door frame or in the vehicle owner’s manual — the correct pressure is not the number listed on the tire itself. Also, take a few minutes to inspect your tires for tread wear. If the tread is worn down to 1/16 of an inch, it’s time to replace your tires.

— Belts and hoses require a look under the hood. Make sure they are in good shape with no signs of blisters, cracks, or cuts in the rubber.

High summer temperatures accelerate the rate at which rubber belts and hoses degrade, so it’s best to replace them now if they show signs of obvious wear. Check all hose connections to make sure they’re secure.

— Wiper Blades should be checked for wear on both sides. After the heavy toll imposed by winter storms and spring rains, windshield wipers are likely to be ragged from use and ready to be replaced. If they aren’t in tip-top condition, invest in new ones.

— The cooling system of your vehicle is especially important on long road trips in the summer, because it keeps your engine from overheating. Carefully check your coolant level to make sure it’s adequate.

In addition, if it’s time to have your cooling system flushed and refilled (or even nearly time), have it done now.

— Fluid levels include your vehicle’s oil, brake, transmission, power steering, coolant and windshield washer fluids. If it’s time or even nearly time to have the oil changed, now would be a good time to do it.

Make sure each reservoir is full, and if you see any sign of fluid leakage, take your vehicle in to be serviced.

— Lights include not only your headlights, but also brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, interior lights and trailer lights. Ensure all the lights on your vehicle are in working order.

Towing a trailer? Be sure to check your trailer lights including brake lights and turn signals too. Failure of trailer light connections is a common problem and a serious safety hazard.

— Air conditioning should be checked now. Lack of air conditioning on a hot summer day can adversely affect people who are in poor health or are sensitive to heat, such as children and seniors.

If the air is not blowing cold, it’s a good idea to have the system repaired before you go, because emergency on-the-road repairs can be more costly than those you plan in advance.



Make an emergency kit

Even a well-maintained vehicle can break down, so it’s advisable to put together an “Emergency Roadside Kit” to carry with you. Some suggested items include:

— A cell phone to call for help. Several companies now offer designated cell phones specifically for emergencies.

— A first-aid kit.

— A flashlight, flares and a white flag.

— Jumper cables.

— A jack and ground mat for changing a tire.

— Work gloves and a change of clothes.

— Basic repair tools, including duct tape for temporarily repairing a hose leak.

— A jug of water and paper towels for cleaning up.

— Nonperishable food, drinking water and medicines.

— Extra windshield washer fluid.

— Maps.



More information


For more information about maintenance and other vehicle-safety guidelines, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration websites www.SaferCar.gov, www.nhtsa.gov/KeepingKidsSafe and the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center at https://safety.army.mil.

(Editor’s note: The Missouri Department of Transportation also provided information for this article. Learn more at www.modot.org/safety.)
Last Updated ( Thursday, 22 June 2017 )