When summer approaches, everyone gets pumped-up to hit the road and families plot their long-distance excursions. Cross-country drives are what define summertime for many of us, after all.

Ah, family bonding at its finest!

However, before hitting that long stretch of open road, it’s a good idea to give the car a once over. The sweltering summer heat can really ruin vacation plans if that SUV, sedan, or van isn’t prepared. Luckily, we have seven summer car care tips to keep your car cool and to guarantee a hassle-free excursion.

1. Check the tires/wheels

As destinations often take you far from home, tire safety is very important for summer travel. All four tires plus the spare should be inspected for:

  • Tread and wear – Check if your tire treads are shallow and worn out. If they are, hold off your trip until you can replace them with new ones. You can’t risk more tread wear, if not blowouts on the road.
  • Wheel balance and alignment – Unbalanced wheels could affect the wheel bearings and cause a tire or two to wear out faster than the rest.  If you car seems to prefer drifting to the right or the left instead of straight ahead, this could be a sign that your alignment needs help.
  • Tire pressure – Tire pressure should be checked EVEN with new tires.  Tire pressure dictates the quality of steering and navigation. It also helps economize on fuel. Be sure to inflate your spare tire with the correct pressure too.

2.  Test your brakes

While the braking system in most cars today use sealed hydraulic systems, brakes are overused during the winter months, putting a strain on the brake pads and rotors.  Having these parts inspected before hitting the road is a safe bet.

 3.  Check/change the fluids

  • Oil – If you’ve not been diligent with your car’s oil change schedule, take care of it now. If you check your own oil using the dipstick, oil that is dark or black in color needs to be changed ASAP.
  • Brake fluid check – Apart from the brake pads, check the brake fluid reservoir while you’re under the hood. Make sure the brake fluid level is at the maximum level.
  • Auto transmission and power steering fluids – If your car has an automatic transmission, the automatic transmission and power steering fluid levels will need to be checked also. Consult the car manual for the procedures or bring your car to the shop for a general check-up of all fluids.

4.  Battery check – Check the battery connections for corrosion and proper connection.

5.  Radiator and water coolant examination – The thing that can get you really steamed is an over-heating car. Even cars need water, and if they don’t have it, can leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere. While your car engine is cold, open the radiator cap to check the water level and check the coolant levels too.

6.  Air conditioning maintenance – While an under-performing AC unit isn’t really a safety issue, it is an issue of comfort.  No one wants to be stuck in a hot car!  Don’t leave off checking your car’s air-conditioning system before taking your journey.

 7.  Prepare the all-important emergency kit – Just like auto insurance coverage, preparing an emergency kit for the summer trek is a must. It’s for backup purposes in case of any major or minor discomfort on the road.  Here are a few items your kit should include:

  • Jumper cables
  • Tire iron
  • Jack stand
  • Flashlight
  • Umbrella
  • First-aid kit
  •  A package of tissues
  • Glass breaker/seatbelt cutter
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Bug repellents
  • Phone charger

All systems GO

It always pays to get ready long before you feel the summer breezes on your face. Take the time to practice summer car care before for the highly-anticipated summer getaway. When all systems are a go, you can jump in the car with your family members or friends and head out to the great beyond.