Houston, it’s hot out there. It’s miserable for all of us.
Including your car.
There is the obvious stress, the engine, of which we’re reminded whenever we see an unlucky individual stranded on the side of the road, steam pouring out from under the hood of their car. Other systems that are under duress in this blazing heat? How about the transmission, air conditioner, brakes, power steering, battery, oil, electrical, and even the tires. All of these things have an increasingly difficult time performing as the mercury rises.
“Fine”, you say, “What can I do to help my car during these trying times?” Well then, I’m glad you asked.
Step 1: Give your engine cooling system a fair chance. Do you have enough fluid in there? Top off your radiator or coolant reservoir with distilled water (check your manual to make sure this is appropriate for your vehicle first). No need for a 50/50 diluted anti-freeze mix. Houston rarely sees freezing temperatures, and when they do happen, we don’t get extended bouts of subzero weather. An 80/20 (water/anti-freeze) ratio will be just fine. Also, check that there isn’t anything blocking your radiator; you’d be surprised how many people have picked up leaves or plastic bags while driving that are stuck in front and robbing crucial airflow.
Step 2: Keep your engine oil fresh. Not only does oil lubricate, but it also helps cool the moving parts. There has been a decent amount of paradigm shift in the car care world when it comes to oil change intervals. It used to be common to hear from all directions that oil needed to be changed every 3,000 miles. For years, however, car enthusiasts (like this guy) have been saying that 3,000 is far too frequent, and now that manufacturers are starting to offer free maintenance (including oil changes), companies like BMW and VW claim that modern oils are good for upwards of 10,000 miles between changes under normal conditions.
Well, this Houston summer is not a normal condition. Combine the triple-digit temperatures with the stop-and-go traffic that many of us experience and you have an effective recipe for accelerated oil wear. So if you’ve been putting off getting that oil changed because you’re too busy, now’s the time to move that task to the top of your list- your engine needs all the help it can get.
Other things to be aware of? Your transmission fluid age (ask your favorite mechanic if it’s time for a change), brake pad wear (hot weather will wear them more quickly), tire condition (make sure you don’t have chunks or cracks), power steering fluid (check the level and add as necessary), and your battery (heat will shorten the life and add stress). Staying on top of these maintenance issues should keep you on the road and off the tow truck. As far as you and I are concerned though, well, fall weather can’t come soon enough.