Summer Car Care Maintenance Checklist

Summer is travel season. Get your car summer-ready with proper car care before hitting the open road to keep everyone safe and save money at the pump. Use this auto maintenance checklist, which shares the most common summer car care tips, to get started.

Tires

Summer can be tough on your tires. That’s because tire pressure changes with rising temperatures. Under- or over-inflated tires put your car at risk for accidents, blowouts and flats. Check your owner’s manual for car maintenance tips to make sure your tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications. This will help you save money at the pump, too. Properly inflated tires increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency by up to three percent.

If you haven’t already, change your winter tires to all-season or summer tires. Winter tires are heavier and wear faster during the summertime, lowering your fuel efficiency. (That really adds up on summer road trips!) Before hitting the road, check your tire air pressure and look for any signs of wear. (Ideally, you should check your tires every 3,000 miles.) Have your local service shop check your tires for proper alignment and balance before a long road trip, too.

Oil

Cars are more likely to overheat in the summer. But it’s not just the hot temperatures that cause overheating; heavy driving can also cause your engine to overheat. Prepare for hot days and long trips by giving your car a thorough systems check. An oil check is a good place to start. If the oil is a dark color or there's a lot of dirt and grime present, it’s time for an oil change and filter replacement. Many technicians recommend an oil change every 3,000 miles, though some manuals extend that to 7,500 miles. Check your owner's manual for car maintenance tips and guidance.

Fluid levels

Fill coolant, transmission, differential, power steering and brake fluids to the suggested levels. During the summer, coolant should be added as a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water (get more details on coolant and antifreeze here). It’s not a bad idea to look under your car for any fluids that may be dripping. If you see any, there’s a good chance you have a leak. A reputable service station will tell you what’s wrong and can give you an estimate for repair.

Hoses and belts

Check hoses for cracks, leaks and loose connections. Hoses should be firm, especially where they are most vulnerable near clamps that connect to the radiator or engine. Soft or flexible hoses often indicate a problem. Likewise, check belts for cracks and damage. A smooth or slick belt may be a sign of excessive wear. Material should not be separated into different layers. Can’t remember when you last changed your belts? Experts say belt failure rises dramatically after 36,000 miles. If you’re beyond that point, talk with your mechanic about replacing them or consult your owner’s manual for instructions on how to do it.

Brakes

If your brake pedal is soft and mushy, hard and resistant, or produces loud and constant scraping noises, it’s likely time for new brakes. Fixing brakes in a timely manner can prevent more costly problems in the future.

Air conditioner

Air conditioning units should be serviced every three years or as needed. The most common cause of a malfunctioning air conditioning unit is a low level of refrigerant. Have a professional check your A/C unit for leaks and evaluate refrigerant levels.

Air filter

Inspect your filter. If it’s filthy, replace it. A dirty or blocked air filter is hard on the engine and lowers fuel efficiency. Most drivers replace air filters every 12,000 miles, but those that do a lot of driving on dirt or gravel roads may need to replace them even more frequently.

Windshield wipers

If wipers are cracked, torn or leave streaks, replace them to maximize your visibility during severe summer storms.

Cleaning

Give your car a thorough cleaning, inside and out, including the underside of your car where accumulated grime and dirt can make your engine and transmission unnecessarily hot. Cleaning the inside of your car will give you a more comfortable ride and potentially lighten your load by eliminating unnecessary items.

Keep in mind, it’s not a bad idea to take your car to a mechanic for a quick tune-up and maintenance check before a long road trip. That way, you can enjoy your journey from the safety of your car, instead of on the side of the road.