Released by AAA Texas
LONGVIEW/GREGG COUNTY (KYTX) - Summer heat is just around the corner. As such, AAA is urging motorists to "summer-ize" their cars and trucks as they get ready to traverse the nation's highways for vacations, family reunions, and trips to theme parks.
"Summer-time road trips usually go hand-in-hand with hot temperatures," said Approved Auto Repair Program Development Manager, Dave Skaien. "A road trip during the summer months likely will involve driving in heat that's 90 to 100 degrees. At those temperatures, breakdowns happen to cars that aren't prepared for hot weather," said Skaien. "The number of members experiencing breakdowns increases by 50 percent when temperatures hit the 90s and 100s on summer days."
Many motorists know that hot weather contributes to radiators overheating, but extreme heat can also sap weak batteries of their remaining energy, cripple air conditioning systems, and create or enlarge hose leaks and snap worn belts.
To assist motorists in locating reliable mechanics that provide high quality maintenance and repairs, and guarantee their work, AAA has identified certified auto repair shops nationwide as "AAA Approved Auto Repair" facilities. These facilities undergo regular inspections and must maintain rigorous standards of service, use quality replacement parts, and employ properly trained technicians. To find the nearest AAA Approved Auto Repair facility, call 1-800-713-0003 or visit your local AAA branch to pick up a booklet listing shops in the AAR network.
Before packing the luggage and getting the family into the car, check the following maintenance items, or have them checked by a trustworthy or certified auto mechanic:
- Inspect the antifreeze/coolant level and condition. Make sure the mixture of water and coolant is the mixture that's specified in the vehicle owner's manual. Also check to make sure the coolant has been flushed and changed as recommended by the vehicle maintenance schedule.
- Inspect and replace worn or cracked belts, as well as hoses that are worn, cracked, blistered, brittle, or too soft. Even belts and hoses that look fine should be examined carefully. Belts and hoses that are more than seven years or 75,000 miles old should be looked at as candidates to be replaced as a safety precaution due to age and mileage. Once they reach 10 years or 100,000 miles, they should be replaced regardless of inspection results. Belt tensioner and/or idler pulleys should be replaced along with the serpentine belt and cooling system hoses should be replaced as a set.
- Check tires for uneven wear or excessive tread wear and make sure all tires, including the spare, are properly inflated. Inflate tires to recommended pressure. Under-inflated tires are a safety hazard and can cut gas mileage by as much as two percent per pound of pressure below the recommended level.
- Check the level and condition of engine oil. When driving under extreme conditions such as 90 to 100-plus degree temperatures, or when towing a heavy trailer, consider switching to heavier motor oil. Check the owner's manual "severe driving conditions" section for oil recommendations.
- Since high temperatures can compromise batteries, test and replace old or weak batteries. Be sure to check the water level of batteries with removable cell caps. If the battery is more than three years old, have it tested during each maintenance service and if it's more than five years old, consider replacing it due to age.
- Check the transmission fluid for the correct level and that it doesn't smell burnt or look dirty, since heat can break down the fluid over time. This is especially important for vehicles that are used for towing. Check the owners' manual for the right type of transmission fluid to use and the proper interval for service and replacement.
- Inspect brake fluid for proper level and condition. Low brake fluid could indicate excessive brake wear or fluid leak. Dirty brake fluid that is dark-colored like coffee, indicates contamination or moisture in the brake fluid. A thorough inspection of the brakes and flushing of the brake fluid is probably needed.
- Inspect power-steering fluid for proper level and condition. Low power-steering fluid can cause damage to the power-steering system, and dirty and/or burnt power-steering fluid can lead to premature power-steering failure.
- Don't leave home without fresh windshield wiper blades and the "forgotten" fluid, windshield washer fluid. Fresh blades and windshield washer fluid will help to remove road dirt and insects from your windshield. Use pre-mixed fluid, not water from a garden hose. The premixed fluid contains ingredients that won't harm exterior vehicle paint.
Even well maintained cars and trucks can break down, so on long trips, bring drinking water, a windshield shade, and a wireless phone. Also pack a comprehensive emergency kit with a flashlight, a basic tool kit, a gallon of water, and a gallon of coolant.