Hot weather can cause all sorts of damage to your car. Follow our simple checks to ensure you don’t end up stranded at the roadside this summer.
1. Check the battery
Battery failure is the most common reason for car breakdowns, and excessive temperatures can shorten the life of your car battery if it's not properly sealed because the electrolyte can evaporate more quickly.
So check the fluid level in your car’s battery and top up with distilled water if necessary.
Low-maintenance (sealed) batteries don’t have filler caps and don’t need topping up. It’s still worth checking the battery for corrosion and leakage of battery acid.
2. Air conditioning
While the air-con may not seem vital when you’re whizzing along on the motorway with the air vents keeping you cool, you’ll feel the heat once you hit the city.
Manufacturers recommend that air-con systems are regassed every two years, so if you own an older car the chances are a service is overdue. Don't forget to use the air-con regularly and throughout the year – the fluid in the system lubricates the washers and seals, and without regular use the gas can leak.
3. Tyres under pressure
Hot weather increases the air pressure in your tyres, putting more strain on any weak areas and upping the risk of a puncture. Overinflated tyres are likely to wear more quickly and are also more prone to blow outs.
So check your car’s tyre pressures regularly when the tyres are cold, and check the tyres for improper tread wear and other defects that could result in a puncture.
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4. Check the fluids
You should check coolant levels and engine oil levels once a week, while brake, clutch and power steering fluid can be checked once a month, bit it’s always worth checking all of these before you set off on a long drive. Don't forget to top up the windscreen washer bottle with appropriate fluid (not washing up liquid, which may gunge up the washer jets) regularly.
5. Belt up
There's at least one drivebelt in your car’s engine bay that drives the alternator, air-con compressor and water and steering pumps. You should be able to check it visually; you can also check the cooling fan is working properly by running the engine for five minutes when it’s already warm and listening for the fan kicking in.
6. Don’t be a wipe out
Check the condition of your car’s wipers to ensure they’ll clear the screens without leaving smeary marks if you need to use them. They should be replaced once a year – poorly maintained wipers can cause an MOT failure.
7. Keep it clean
Removing dust and dead insects from your car’s windscreen will improve visibility, especially when the sun is close to the horizon, when dirt will diffuse the light. Cleaning the bodywork and protecting it with wax will protect it from the sun’s rays and from blemishes caused by bird droppings and insects.
8. Due for a service?
If your car’s due its annual service and MOT around the same time you’re planning on using it for your summer holiday, get it checked over before you go so there will be less chance of a breakdown.
9. Get covered in advance
Don’t wait until your car breaks down to get recovery service membership – it’s cheaper and much less stressful to buy it in advance.
10. Stock up before you head off
Take some emergency supplies with you just in case you get stranded. Bottles of water, snacks, torches and a couple of phone chargers (in case the battery goes flat) are all worth stowing in the boot. It’s also worth taking your driving licence and insurance policy in case they’re needed.
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