How to Get Your Car Ready for Summer

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Getting Ready for Road Trips!

Winter and summer can both be very hard on your car for completely different reasons. After spending those long winter months being frozen and having to wear studded winter tires, your car will need a little tender loving care before it can swing into hundred-degree temperatures during summer. Hot weather can put a strain on your car's battery, it's air conditioning system, it's radiator and water pump, its hoses and belts, its suspension, and most of all, on its brakes and tires.
With that in mind, let's take a look at how to get your car ready for summer and the road trips that come with it. You can handle many of these checks yourself right at home or have the professional certified technicians at your local Lithia Motors dealership handle it all for you.
Talkin' Tires
First up, if you live in a part of the country that sees a lot of ice and snow in the winter, you probably have your car fitted with studded snow tires during those frigid months of traversing slush and dealing with black ice. But when Spring starts sprouting, it's time to switch those winter tires out for some good all-season or summer tires.
Some folks even have two complete sets of wheels and tires to make the switch over quick and easy and keep you from having the extra expense of mounting your summer tires and having them balanced and aligned. Once your vehicle is shod in dry pavement ready all-season tires, make sure you keep them inflated properly. This is a really big deal as proper tire inflation makes your tires safer, last a lot longer, and you'll get better gas mileage too.
To find out the manufacturer's recommended tire pressure for your make and model of car, look for the sticker on the inside driver's door jamb, or consult your Owner's Manual. Check the air pressure when the tires are cold, before you head out on the road. Purchase a tire pressure gauge and keep it in the glovebox.
Achin' Brakes
While we're on the subject of wheels and tires, have your brakes checked. The tires and brakes on your car are two of the most important safety devices on any vehicle. When you have your car serviced at a Lithia Motors service center, we change the oil and filter, and do a safety check of your vehicle. This includes checking your tire wear, your air pressure, and we check your brakes to see how the brake pads are wearing.
Brake pads and shoes are usually good for around 35,000 miles in stop and go urban traffic and up to 80,000 miles if most of your travel involves highway miles. When the thickness of your brake pads get too low, you'll notice a screeching or squealing sound coming from them. That's because the pad has worn down and metal is scraping metal. If the brake friction material is less than ¼ inch thick,
It's time for new pads.
At Lithia Motors, we not only sell new tires by major name brands, we service brakes. We will get your car fitted with new brake pads and shoes to keep your car, truck, or SUV safe.

Pop the Hood

Most of us don't spend much time under the hood of our car in the winter months. It's cold out there and all we want is for our car to start and get us where we're going. But when Spring arrives, it's time to pop the hood and check all the fluids, check the belts and hoses, and make sure the battery is up to snuff. Make sure the engine is cold while checking out the following:
Let's start with the car's battery. Look for any corrosion on the battery terminals. You can clean this off yourself with a toothbrush and baking soda. If the car has been sitting for a while, you can attach a battery charger or battery tender to make sure you're working with a full charge. Our Lithia Motors technicians can check the state of charge of the battery and make sure it's in good shape for another summer of driving.
Always check the engine coolant before taking any summer trips. A coolant reservoir feeds antifreeze/coolant into the system. Look through your Owner's Manual to find out where to add coolant to your vehicle. If the coolant level is low, use a funnel to add more coolant to the reservoir. Keep in mind that there are several different kinds of coolant in use today. Consult your Owner's Manual to make sure you are adding the right kind of coolant and use "pre-diluted" coolant.
For the power steering fluid, again check your Owner's Manual to find the reservoir and once you've found it under the hood, open the fill cap. Most come with a dipstick to check the level of fluid. Wipe the dipstick clean and then reinsert it to check the level. Refill to maximum level if it is low and use the manufacturer's suggested power steering fluid.
Checking the brake fluid level is a bit different. If the level inside the brake reservoir looks low, it may be because the brake pads are worn down and the fluid level has dropped to match the wear exhibited by the brake pads. A low level of brake fluid might also mean you have a slight leak in the system. Your local Lithia Motors service center technicians can check your vehicle to make sure the system is sealed and add fluid if necessary.
Make sure your car's engine oil is always topped off. Your Owner's Manual will show you where the engine oil dipstick is as well as the oil fill cap. As vehicles get older, they generally use more oil. Between oil changes it is best to check the oil level by removing the dipstick when the engine is cold, wiping it off, and then replacing it to check the level. Add oil with an SAE that is recommended by the automaker. The SAE tells you the viscosity of the oil.
Most modern vehicles require an engine oil and oil filter change every 5,000 miles. Your Lithia Motors service technician can replace the oil and filter using the manufacturer's suggested products to get you back on the road quick and easy. While checking the fluids, look under the car for any signs of leaks. Also, look for signs of cracks or cuts in the hoses and belts.
The Winter can be rough on windshield wiper blades and you may have used up all the wiper fluid in the reservoir from de-icing. Top off your fluid while under the hood and inspect your wiper blades. Run the wipers and use the fresh fluid to see if your blades leave any streaks on the windshield. We recommend replacing your wiper blades once a year. Just remember that the more you use them, the quicker they wear out.

Keep it Cool

One thing you will need during the Summer when temps close in on 100 degrees, is for the air conditioner in your car to work properly. Since you were using the car's heater during winter, the AC unit probably got little or no use until you need it again. Start the engine and let it run for a moment before turning on the air conditioner. Set the fan on high to see how long it takes for the air to get cool.
Does the air coming out of the vents smell funny? If the smell is musty or moldy, you need to change the cabin air filter for the system. Check your Owner's Manual to find out how to access the filter, it is usually near the glove compartment and easy to replace. If the air smells like antifreeze, you may have a leak of radiator fluid.
Listen to see if the unit makes any unusual sounds. If you hear grinding noises, it could be a sign that the air compressor is not working properly, and it will need to be checked. If the air coming out of the vents doesn't get cool, you may need to add refrigerant and that could mean you have a leak in the system. In any case, your Lithia Motors service technician will be able to check your AC system and make sure you stay cool this Summer.
Ready for the Road
The last thing to do before enjoying summer driving is to wash and wax your car. Winter road salt, slush and grime are hard on your car's undercarriage, and all that winter weather can dull the shine on your paint and clearcoat. Give your vehicle a good wash and wax or get it detailed to get more life out that shine and enjoy your Summer.