Before hitting the road this summer, you can take several simple precautions to keep your family safe and save money on fuel.
Extreme heat and long drives can be tough on cars. Cracked hoses, leaky radiators, underinflated tyres and dirty filters can significantly lower your fuel efficiency, or worse, lead to a total breakdown.
We’ve put together some maintenance tips that will help you get ready for the summer. So have a read, take note and enjoy your time on the roads safely this holiday season!
1. Check your tyres
Tyres are one of the most overlooked parts of a car. An under-inflated, over-inflated, worn
down or misaligned tyre can be extremely dangerous, particularly in hot summer weather.
|What you DON'T want to happen!|
Tyre pressure changes with the rising temperatures -- approximately one to two PSI (pounds per square inch) for every 10-degree increase in outside air temperature. Consult your owner's manual or the manufacturer’s tyre placard usually found inside the drivers door to see what your tyre pressure should be and check it with a hand pressure gauge or just let the guys at the service centre do it for you.
It’s also important to get your tyres checked for proper alignment and balance and ensure the tread hasn’t worn down too much.
And don't forget about your spare! There's no point in having a spare tyre if it’s in worse condition than the rest. Make sure the spare is properly inflated and has ample tread depth.
2. Change oil and filter
Oil is the lifeblood of your car. It keeps hardworking engine parts running clean, smooth and cool. Due to Tasmanian driving conditions (mainly short distances) we recommend that you change your engine oil and filter at least every six months or 10,000km which ever comes first. The fact is, most of us do a lot of heavy driving during the summer holidays when an engine is more likely to overheat. So at least check your oil before you head out on that road trip with the family.
You can watch Mark’s videos on how to check oil here.
3. Top up the fluids
Summertime is travel time. Even with petrol prices as high as they are, we Tasmanians love to get on the road to see our beautiful state.
If you haven't driven your car on longer distances much during the winter then you will need to check all of the fluid levels -- coolant, transmission, differential, power steering and brake fluid- to make sure there weren't any leaks.
4. Give your car a really good clean
While many of us regularly clean the outside body of our cars on a weekend (even in thecold of winter) it's also important to clean the undercarriage of the car. If you’ve been on rural or unsealed roads that get a bit muddy with rain you can be sure that dirt will have accumulated underneath. You can clean the undercarriage yourself using a plain water hose or high-pressure cleaning system. Many professional car washes and detailing services can also perform a high-pressure steam clean that reaches underneath.
5. Check hoses and belts
The key to summer driving is keeping the engine cool, so you’ll need to check the hoses and belts. The hoses connected to the radiator help pump coolant to and from the engine block, and the belts run the fan that helps cool the system further. If the hoses crack or the belts snap, the radiator will quickly overheat, leaving you stranded.
Check hoses for cracks, leaks and loose connections. Hoses should be firm, never soft and malleable. Hoses suffer from a slow deterioration process called electrochemical degradation (ECD) that eats away at rubber hose material from the inside. The most vulnerable parts of the hose are those nearest to clamps where the hose connects to the radiator or the engine.
Belts can also be visually checked for cracks and damage. Take note if the belt looks excessively slick or smooth. Remove the belt to make sure that the material hasn't started separating into different layers. Experts say the risk of belt failure rises dramatically after 60,000 kilometres.
6. Change the air filter
Over time, your car's air filter can get clogged with thick debris. A clogged air filter can really lower your fuel efficiency so a simple replacement will show improvement. The recommended interval for changing an air filter is every 20,000 kilometres, but that can be affected by the particular road and air conditions in which you drive. If you do a lot of driving on dirt or gravel roads, then your air filter is going to clog up much faster than an air filter in a vehicle that's used strictly for driving on sealed roads. The only real way to know if you need to replace your air filter is take it out and give it a quick inspection.
Interestingly, a slightly dirty air filter works better than a totally clean one. This is because the debris in the filter becomes part of the filtering process, trapping smaller particles that might have otherwise slipped past.
There's no real science to knowing when it's time to replace the filter. If it's really filthy, then it obviously needs to be changed. Otherwise, go with your gut. If you're preparing for a long summer of hard driving, then you might as well replace it. Air filters are relatively inexpensive.