Summer is here, and “hot and humid” is the norm in St. Louis. Sun and storms fight it out from time to time, offering respite from the humidity. Trails, pools, lakes, and the river are welcome diversions, too. While we usually think about how great it feels – or not – to finally be in Summer after this crazy Winter, sometimes we forget the toll that summer driving takes on our cars, whether we’re just commuting to work or taking a summer road trip vacation.
Like all machines, our cars work best when they’re operated in a certain climate and well-maintained. Similarly, our bodies function best when well-rested and undistracted. Here are a few tips to take the heat out of summer driving.
Summer driving is far easier on your engine than Winter driving, especially the engine lubrication system. Still, warmer temperatures can be a problem for high-mileage engines, because thinner oil might lead to excessive blow-by and oil burning. Switching to a heavier oil, 10W-30 instead of 5W-20, for example, can often prevent this problem without having to resort to additives or an engine rebuild.
Synthetic oil is also a good “oil change” to make, as the stable compounds are more resistant to temperature extremes. In Summer, when engine heat is harder to displace, oil overheating can easily lead to oil oxidation and sludge deposits. Making the switch to synthetic oil may be slightly more expensive, but it also improves lubrication all year long and cleans conventional oil deposits, extending the life of your engine.
The cooling system strikes a delicate balance, because heat is what moves your engine, but too much can render it useless. Summer especially puts your cooling system to the test: Hot air doesn’t readily absorb more heat, and air conditioning use adds more heat to the radiator. Before hot weather strikes, have your engine cooling system inspected, including coolant concentration and level, pressure cap seal and pressure test, and drive belt and fan operation.
Air conditioning should be in use year-round, because it removes moisture from the air in addition to cooling it – temperature is a different setting – but Summer air conditioning usage puts more strain on the compressor clutch and belt than usual. Have your air conditioning system checked by a professional, both for operation and for leaks. A low-charge system or worn drive belt might give up when you least expect it, such as when you need it to defog your windshield during a summer storm.
A Clean Car
Let’s be honest, cleaning your car is not all about looking your best – it also prevents corrosion – but helps you see your best in all kinds of weather. In this aspect, your windshields, glass, and mirrors are literally your window to the world outside your car. If you can’t see, you can’t drive, and keeping your glass clean and clear can make a world of difference. Day or night, clean glass generates less glare from the sun, headlights, and traffic lights, so you can see other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and other obstacles.
Start with cleaning all the inside glass with a streak-free glass cleaner and soft cloths – microfiber is a great choice, as it leaves neither lint nor streaks. After your normal car wash, go over the outside glass in the same manner. Finally, check that your wiper blades clear your windshield without streaking, squeaking, or chattering. Any of these problems can be remedied by installing a new set of wiper blades.
Even if you aren’t looking to cool off, get used to using the air conditioning for other things, like defogging the inside of the windshield. Hot and humid days are a recipe for thunderstorms and fogged windshields, but dry air from the air conditioner will keep your windshield fog-free, helping you see the road ahead.
A Safer Driver
Safe summer driving is only part-car, and every car requires a safe driver behind the wheel. Whether commuting or road-tripping, safe driving only requires a little bit of planning. To drive well-rested, make sure you get to bed on time, even though Summer nights might demand more of us than usual. Coffee might help a little, but there’s nothing like real sleep. To avoid spending time in traffic, consider leaving a little earlier, reducing fuel-wasting idling and mind-bending traffic-jams. Wear sunglasses to improve your vision on bright days.
If you’re planning a road trip, you’ll probably be spending a lot more hours on the road than you normally would. Plan frequent breaks for food, leg-stretching, and refueling. Eat smaller amounts than you normally would, and drink plenty of water. This will keep you awake and alert.
No matter how short or long the drive, don’t drive while under the influence of alcohol, and don’t text and drive. They’re both just as bad for your driving, and police officers won’t think twice about pulling you off the road if you’re a danger to yourself or others. Trust us, whether it’s a text, phone call, or a beer, it can wait!
Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers
While we can’t do much about your state of mind on the road, we can keep your car running its best, which is also a good feeling. Do you need new tires, all-season or summer? Do you need an oil change or new wiper blades? Is your check engine light on and burning more fuel than necessary? At Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers, we can help with these, and more, and we’ve been serving the St. Louis area for over forty years! Just stop in one of our forty locations and let us know how we can serve you.