Thursday, May 28, 2009

Get Your Car Ready for Summer

I’ll never forget the fine summer day when I was 17. I drove off in my 1967 Ford Mustang and thought the car felt a little wobbly. I pulled over took a walk around the car and then remembered that my dad had just changed the tires. He was an auto mechanic, but you know how that goes. I might have had a cool car, but there was always some customer’s car that required his attention. The first thing that popped into my mind was lug nuts. Sure enough, he put the wheels on, but forgot to tighten the lug nuts on one wheel. So there I was alongside the road in my little summer dress with a tire iron in my hand. Fortunately I was kid that had grown up with cars and tools.

Today, I loathe the idea of being stranded by my car. Save yourself from sitting on the hot summer pavement by preparing your vehicle for the summer.

Tires: Don’t trust your eyes to guess if your tires are okay.

Get out the tire-pressure gauge and check that your tires are inflated to the recommended level. You’ll find this number inside the driver’s side door. Underinflated tires run the risk of a blowout, and overinflated ones make hydroplaning more likely in rainy weather. There's a financial payoff, too: Properly inflated tires increase your vehicle's fuel efficiency by up to 3%.
It’s easy to use a tire pressure gauge, this video shows you how:

Also, check the tread while you're down there. Stick a penny in the tread gaps with Lincoln's head facing down -- if the head is fully visible, you need new tires.

Look at your spare as well. If you need to change a tire on the road the last thing you want is a bad spare.

Even if your tires are properly inflated and your tread is fine, your tires may not be. Colorado’s low humidity can also do a number on your tires. Tires can dry out and deteriorate.

Fluids: It’s not so hard to remember fluids in the summer, just think hot and thirsty. Always be sure your car is on level ground to check any fluids. For most fluids you’ll want the car to be turned off, but warm.

First check your automatic transmission fluid, this is the only fluid that you’ll check with the engine running.

Oil--Check the oil after running the car for a few minutes. Be sure the car is on level ground. It should be at a sufficient level and appear clean on the stick. Manufacturers and technicians have been advising change the oil every 3,000 miles, but you can safely save yourself money and stretch it to 5,000 miles.

Be sure to check the required oil weight. Most new cars/trucks are designed to run on 5w30 oil. Old schoolers are used to putting in 10w30 or 10w40, but this can be harmful to newer cars. Doing so can destroy valve timing devices and void your warranty. SO: use the right weight oil (it is stamped on your oil filler cap).

Don’t forget your antifreeze overflow tank, brake fluid, and power steering fluid, battery water"unless it's maintenance free. Read your owner’s manual for guidance.

Brakes: You should have the brakes checked at least once a year, even if they seem fine. This is especially true in Colorado if you’ve been winter driving in the mountains and plan to head up to mountains frequently this summer. Obviously a brake inspection is a safety matter, but it could also save you from surprise expenses.

Windshield wipers: These also get a constant workout in Colorado weather. Replace yours with the season change and you’ll see better when those sudden afternoon downpours explode from the sky.

What’s in your trunk? Clean out your trunk and you’ll save fuel. But do be sure to carry an emergency kit.

Have a fun summer! I hope I don't see you on the side of the road.

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