Preparing Your Car for Summer Driving

A jeep on a summer driving carrying surf boards.

Summer driving is prime time as people hit the road for vacations and visiting family. Although summer weather is often more predictable and less dangerous than winter weather, it does present specific challenges. To get your car ready for driving in heat that can be extreme and storms that can be severe, follow these four simple steps.

Follow your regularly scheduled maintenance plan

When seasons turn it is an excellent time to check in with how many miles are on your car. Then refer to your owner’s manual and see what sort of regular maintenance tasks are recommended at certain age or mile milestones for your vehicle. If you need to have your tires switched over from winter snow tires to all-weather tires, use that same appointment to ask your mechanic to give your car an all-over inspection.

Items that need regular attention include the brakes, the battery, spark plugs, belts and hoses, and the air conditioning system. Fully electric vehicles need battery and coolant system maintenance as well.

If possible, address any larger problems at a time when you are not planning to travel long distances. It would cause issues if you get the entire system overhauled or new parts installed a day before you leave on a week-long road trip. Get your car ready, then drive it for a few weeks to make sure that everything is working properly, before using your car to travel.

Summer Driving #1: Check those wipers, fluids, and tires

A regular maintenance check-up is a good time to have your mechanic top off all your car’s fluids and inspect your tires. You can also do this on your own if you are not set up on a scheduled maintenance on a regular basis.

Pop the hood (making sure you know how to prop the hood safely while you inspect your engine and fluids) and make sure that your windshield washer fluid reservoir is full. If it’s not, fill it with fluid you can buy at any auto supply store. It can be more involved to check such fluids as oil or power steering fluids, so if this is not something you’d like to try, make an appointment with your regular auto shop to do that for you (you can even ask to observe how they do it).

Summer Driving #2: Give car a good clean, and run your air conditioning

One of the main things you should check when cleaning your car out for the spring and summer is whether you have a spare tire, whether you can get to it easily, and whether it’s ready to use and accessible.

Look over the exterior of your car to make sure everything looks solid. Pay attention to your bumpers, look underneath to make sure nothing is getting close to dragging, and inspect and clean all your windows the next time you fill-up with gas. You may also want to take your car through an automated car wash to remove any of the road salt or other dirt it picked up during the winter months. This is also important if you are planning to transport your car.

During heat waves, you’ll also want to know that your air conditioning is working. Run your air conditioning during several car trips and under different conditions to make sure it’s working properly.

Have a summer emergency kit ready

Extreme weather conditions are possible in summer, just as they are in winter, particularly depending on where you live. Your emergency car kit should include both nonperishable safety and car items, as well as perishable food and health supplies.

Supplies that you might need are booster cables, emergency flares, duct tape, and a basic tool kit. You will also want to include a basic first-aid kit, as well as gloves and paper towels or wet wipes. Perishable supplies that can be helpful to have include bottled drinking water and snacks that have a long shelf life.

Prepare yourself for what might happen if you ever break down or have an accident. Consider joining a roadside protection service like AAA for a monthly fee. Make sure to save the numbers of a couple of local maintenance shops or tow companies on your phone.

Summer can be a wonderful time to make the most of your vehicle and enjoy fun road trips. You’ll enjoy your travels that much more if you take steps to make sure your car is clean, maintained, and stocked with emergency supplies before you go.

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