Though many drivers are aware of the effects of cold weather on your car it is important to realise that hot weather can have an adverse effect on your car, too. This is especially relevant if you haven’t used your car in a while. The last thing you need is to find yourself stranded on the side of a motorway at the height of summer’s blazing temperatures. So, we here at Brightside Car Insurance have compiled a summer car maintenance checklist, as well as some tips on summer driving safety to help you to avoid any unexpected breakdowns in the heat of the moment.
Car tyre checks
Previously underlying tyre problems can suddenly come to the fore in summer. This is because the heat causes an increase in tyre pressure, meaning that any pre-existing cracks or distortions in the rubber suddenly become much more noticeable. Of course, this means that your tyres will be susceptible to blowouts, which occur more frequently during hot summers. To prevent this from happening ahead of any summer road trips, complete tyre checks. Not only should you check your tyres visually for the signs noted above, but also check the pressure against those recommended in your manual. This should be done even if you see no visual signs of strain on your tyres. If the pressures are too high, relieve them until they are at the correct levels. If one or more tyres registers a lower pressure than expected, this could indicate that it has a slow puncture and needs replacing, or a faulty valve. It is also sensible to make sure you have a spare tyre in case you do experience a blowout. A tyre repair kit is also a good thing to have on hand, but not as a replacement for a spare tyre. Both should be on stand-by in your car.
Car battery checks
Though car batteries can have a tough time in winter, the effects that summer can have on them should not be underestimated. Battery failures are the top cause of summer breakdowns, so careful checks should be made before you drive, especially if you haven’t used the car in a while. Excessive temperatures out on the road or when not in use can shorten the life of the battery. This is because if it is not properly sealed the electrolyte inside can evaporate. Battery issues also increase with stop-start driving and heightened usage of in-vehicle electrical systems. If your car struggles to start or has trouble with all its lights or electronics, you may have battery issues. If your battery is getting older, consider replacing it before going on a longer summer drive. Replacement cycles of every 3 years are generally recommended as problems are more likely to arise after a battery is active for longer than that timeframe. Check your battery’s fluid level and top it up with distilled water if necessary. If your car’s battery is ‘low maintenance’ then it will be sealed, and you will be unable to open it. If this is the case, check the battery for corrosion or any acid leakages. To prevent issues in the future, it is recommended to perform these checks while taking long journeys where you or your passengers heavily use the car’s in-vehicle electronics. If taking regular short trips over the summer, try to check your battery once a week, especially if it is older.
Check your car’s fluids
All of these car fluids should be checked on a regular basis, particularly when driving in warmer weather:
- Engine oil levels – check once a week
- Coolant levels – check once a week
- Brake fluid – check monthly
- Clutch fluid – check monthly
- Power steering fluid – check monthly
- Windscreen washer fluid – top up with correct fluid regularly (not washing up liquid as it can congest your washer jets
You definitely won’t want to discover a problem with your air conditioning when you’re stuck in slow crawling summer traffic. Before you start driving, check to make sure the system is flowing cold air into your car properly. By using the air-con regularly and year-round, the system’s fluids keep its washers and seals properly lubricated. Without regular use the gas in the system can leak, so be sure to check and use it throughout the year, not just in the summer.
Check your clutch
As holiday traffic means that congestion is often more widespread in the hot summer months, your car’s clutch will likely experience a higher degree of wear and tear than normal. Towing a caravan, especially one that is loaded incorrectly, will also put a lot of strain on your clutch if you are taking one on your family summer holiday. A heavy pedal, high clutch bite or a slipping clutch when accelerating hard in a high gear at low speed are all indicators that there may be an issue with your clutch. If you have issues, you may need to speak to a professional about replacing your clutch.
Summer Driving Safety
The Highway Code should be followed all year round. However, there are factors which can especially influence your driving abilities during the summertime. Some summer driving tips include:
- Keep a bottle of water or two in your car at all times to stay hydrated in the event of a particularly hot drive, or being stranded at a sizzling roadside in a worst-case breakdown scenario.
- If you suffer from hay fever, it is recommended that you let somebody else drive during peak pollen levels. If you instead opt to take hay fever medication, check its packaging to make sure it doesn’t cause drowsiness or any other side effects that can affect your driving.
- Reduce sun glare by wearing sunglasses and using your car’s sun visors.
- If you find yourself behind a tractor, keep plenty of distance and make sure you have plenty of room to pass it if you decide to do so. Keep in mind that the tractor’s cab may be soundproofed, so the driver may be unable to hear oncoming vehicles. Tractors are also only required to have brake or indicator lights when driving at night, so take extra care when navigating roads around them in case they stop or turn without warning.
For additional peace of mind, our car insurance brokering service at Brightside can help you drive confidently this summer, especially with breakdown cover available to add on to your bespoke policy. Find out more on our Car Insurance page and get a quote today.