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Summer car care tips from an auto journalist

Now that summer is just around the corner, so is road trips. If you happen to be planning a road trip, there are some things that you should check on your car to make sure that it is safe. This is just a basic list to cover a few things, but nothing can replace a complete check up by your mechanic.

1. Check your tires
Tires are quite seriously one of the most overlooked parts on a car, yet they are easily one of the most important. It has been said that only about 10 percent of drivers check air pressure in their tires on a regular basis. An improperly inflated tire can rob you of gas mileage, can lead to dangerous handling situations, or even a possible blow out, which can be fatal. You also want to check things like tread depth, to see if you have tread remaining on your tires. Using the penny trick, if you stick the penny with Lincoln's head down, and you cant see the head, then you have a good amount of tread left. If you don't see his head, than you might want to think about replacing your tires.

2. Change your engine oil and filter
Oil is the lifeblood of your car. If your engine doesn't have oil, then your engine will become damaged and eventually cease to function. Most owners' manuals say that you should have it changed ever 7,500 miles. However, during the hotter months of summer, you will at the very least want to check it before you head out on that road trip. To check the oil level, start the car and let it run for a few minutes. Then shut the car off, open the hood, and pull out the dipstick. You won't get a proper reading off of this dipstick pull, so go ahead and put the dipstick back in, wait about 20 seconds, and pull it again. You are looking for 2 things here, one is the oil level, if you are low go ahead and add some. The second thing you are looking for is color. If it has a yellowish tint, than it is fresh and clean. If the oil is dark brown to black, you might want to think about getting it changed.

3. Check hoses and belts
This is important for a variety of reasons. Hoses carry vital fluids like power steering, transmission, and coolant. If any one of those hoses breaks, cracks, or is weeping, than all of that fluid isn't getting to where it needs to go, and that could prove to be a costly issue if left untreated for a length of time. Belts are also an important thing to check because they control things like the alternator, ac compressor, power steering, timing components, and various other things for your engine. If a belt looks frayed, chewed up, or has any other damage, get it replaced as failure is only a matter of time, and speaking from experience, having a belt fail on you while driving is not a pleasureable experience.

4. Change your air filter
This is something you should do about every other oil change. If your air filter is dirty, than your engine isnt getting proper air flow, which will cause it to work harder, therefore using more gas. If the air filter is clean, than your engine has a better chance of breathing happy and healthy, reducing gas consumption, which would make your wallet happier, and heavier.

5. Check those windshield wipers
In a perfect world, you should be replacing your windsheild wipers every spring, and then every winter. This is because rubber tends to break down under high heat situations, like during the summer months. How can you tell if your wipers need replaced, if it is raining, or you use your windsheild washers, and the wipers are leaving streaks or smears, they need to be replaced. Properly working wipers should leave a streak/smear free path, and properly working wipers could also be a life saver during severe thunderstorms during the summer.

6. Check your brakes and coolant levels
Brakes are an important thing, and should be checked every time you are rotating your tires, which should happen every oil change. If you are getting squeaks or squeels everytime you go to stop, then you need new brake pads. Also, if your brake pedal is feeling mushy or soft, you also might need new brake pads, or there might be a leak in a brake line.

Checking coolant levels is also an important thing. If your car doesnt have enough coolant, then it WILL overheat, and that means sitting by the side of the road during the middle of summer on that road trip of yours.

If you do all of these things, than your car should be a little bit happier, and take you to the places where you want to go without issue. Again, these are things that you can do, but nothing can replace a multi-point inspection by a trusted mechanic, as they will be able to go deeper into the systems on your car to tell you whats what.

I hope you enjoyed this list, and I hope it helps you have a safer summer out on the road. Thank you for taking the time to read this list. If you did enjoy it, or had questions about it, or anything automotive, feel free to leave comments or questions at the bottom of the page, or you can e-mail me directly: granlundjames@yahoo.com, you can find me on facebook: James Granlund, or you can find me on twitter: @JamesGranlund, or you can read my blog at: 9thgearllc.blogspot.com. Thanks for reading, and stay safe on the roads this summer.