The summer months mean hot weather, cold drinks, and time spent with family and friends. And for many of us, that also means hitting the road for some much needed rest and relaxation—whether you're going to the pool, the park, or the beach.
But before you head out on your summer adventure, you should do a few things to make sure your vehicle is ready for any journey—near or far. This article will summarize the top things you should do to prep your vehicle for summer to give you peace of mind while traveling.
7 Vehicle Items to Check for Summer
Windshield and Wipers
If your wiper blades leave streaks on your windshield, chatter, or make noise, it’s time to replace them. If you own an SUV, don’t forget about the rear wiper blade and washer, too. Summer storms can be severe; windshield wipers that don’t give you the best visibility can cause an accident.
It is vitally important to check your brakes as summer sets in. If you hear grinding, chatter, or squeals from your brakes, or your brake pedal is pulsing or drifting down further than normal when attempting to slow down or stop, this could indicate a brake or brake fluid problem. Get them properly inspected by a technician.
Your tires play an essential role in the safety of your vehicle as you travel. They are the glue that keeps your vehicle firmly gripping the road. To ensure a safe, comfortable ride and optimal tire performance and handling, check the two leading indicators of a tire’s health: tread depth and pressure.
- Tire Tread: In rainy weather, your tire’s deep grooves push water out of the way to maintain the tire’s connection to the road. Worn tires mean less tread and less traction. Braking time increases, and you also risk a higher chance of hydroplaning in wet conditions.
Before travel, inspect each tire along the sidewall and other visible parts for any signs of damage, significant or uneven wear, holes, and tears. If there’s no damage, check the tread using the quarter test. Stick a quarter in the tread at various points across the tire. If you can see the top of George Washington’s head with his head inserted down into the tread, your tires are worn and it is time for a replacement.
- Tire Pressure: Low tire pressure can cause blowouts at highway speeds. Underinflated tires only have the outside edges of the rubber in contact with the ground and can heat up. If your tires are low, add air until they reach the correct pressure. Before each trip, check all four tires to ensure they are properly inflated. The proper pressure is listed inside your driver’s door or in your owner’s manual.
Conversely, high tire pressure can lead to similar problems where only the immediate center of the tire is in contact with the ground, affecting the heat, wear, handling, and resiliency of your tires.
Always inflate your tires to the manufacturer's recommended levels and check them regularly for under or overinflation.
End-of-winter and springtime potholes can rattle your vehicle, affecting your suspension and other components. You may not notice or feel damage until summer. If your vehicle feels lopsided, extra bumpy, or you have difficulty steering, a trained technician will inspect your suspension system when you take it in before that trip and during your summer tune-up.
Your A/C system is an important component to help keep your sanity in check during the hot summer months. Summers in the Tri-State area are hot and sticky, especially when stuck in traffic with no air conditioning. If you notice any issues with your A/C, have it checked out sooner than later.
It is always good to check all of your lights for any non-working bulbs and give your headlights and taillights a good scrubbing. If they are foggy, hazy, or dim, they can make it difficult for you to see and make it difficult for other motorists to know when you plan to stop or turn.
The beginning of summer or before any long trip is a great time to top off your fluids. Low fluids typically indicate a leak which can lead to serious damage to your sensitive engine and transmission components or create an unsafe condition if it is brake fluid or power steering fluid. If something is damaged or leaking, you’ll usually —but not always—see its evidence under your vehicle. You should check your owner’s manual to see its recommendations for flushing or replacing fluids. Here are five important fluids to check:
- Coolant: Overheating is often caused by a lack of coolant, so it's essential to check your levels before heading out on a long trip. If low, you should also check for leaks in your cooling system; a common one is a leaking radiator or hose—which will lead to overheating.
- Wiper fluid: Check the level and top it off as needed, especially before more extended trips.
- Transmission fluid: Repairing or replacing a transmission is very costly, but it often comes up because servicing the transmission fluid and filter are some of the most neglected services. This fluid is essential in the maintenance and performance of your transmission.
- Engine oil: Your engine oil is the lifeblood of your engine. If it hasn’t been changed on a regular basis or it becomes low because of a leak or worn parts, it could cause serious damage, overheating, and even a breakdown during a trip. Ensure your engine oil is the correct type and viscosity per your owner’s manual and is recently serviced and full.
- Brake Fluid: Your brake fluid is the hydraulic fluid that makes your brakes work each time you press on the brakes. Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means it attracts moisture. When the fluid gets old, it becomes a corrosive attracting fluid in your brake system; if it is low, it is either because of a leak—which can be extremely dangerous—or your brake pads are getting thin. Before you top off your brake fluid, have a professional give your brake system a thorough check to make certain they are safe and ready for trips.
While it’s usually thought that cold kills a vehicle’s battery, heat is more stressful and will deplete a weak battery from years of use. The beginning of summer is a great time to have your battery tested by a technician before things really heat up. Batteries can be expected to last about five or six years of regular use. If your battery is more than five years old, you may want to consider starting with a new one so you need not worry about how much longer that old battery will last.
Don't Get Stuck This Summer
So get out there and enjoy your summer—but prepare your vehicle first! This will help you avoid common problems, such as overheating, a blown tire, or an A/C that stops working.
Your local NY/NJ/CT AAMCO technician can help get your vehicle ready for the summer months. They will be able to help you with any problems you may have and ensure that your car is in good working condition.
With a trusted maintenance professional, you'll have a safe and fun summer full of travel and memories.
Expect the Best
AAMCO has over 50 years of experience delivering total car care, from transmissions to tune-ups for more than 20 million vehicles. Customers depend on us for:
- Exceptional customer service
- The latest technology for diagnosis and repair
- Expert technicians who “fix it right the first time.”
- Best warranty coverage available
- Convenient payment options with up to 12 months of interest-free payments
AAMCO Centers of the NY/NJ/CT Tri-State Area represent trust, quality, and value.