For many of us, the summer holiday gives our car the biggest work out of the year. In addition to covering multiple miles, our cars often have to contend with heat as well. Here are the main summer car checks you should perform to ensure you have a trouble-free break.
Your car’s cooling system is vital for it to perform reliably, whatever the weather. But it’s more important in hot temperatures for obvious reasons. Cooling systems are sealed units and shouldn’t leak. However, levels will drop slightly over time so it’s well worth having a look under the bonnet.
The cooling system has an expansion chamber. This has minimum and maximum markers on it and the level of the liquid inside the tank should be somewhere between the two. In an emergency you can top it up with water. Just make sure you have a professional check the concentration of anti-freeze before winter.
Check your tyres
The softer a tyre is, the more rubber there is in contact with the road and the hotter they will become. In summer the road surface can be very hot, particularly the further south you go. And the hotter tyres get, the more likely they are to blow out.
Check the manufacturer recommended air pressure, either behind the fuel filler flap, on the door sill or in the user manual. Then pump the tyres up. If you’ve got multiple family members on board plus luggage, you might have to inflate the tyres more than usual. And don’t forget the spare if your car has one.
In addition, check the tyres over. Look for cuts and bulges in the sidewall and foreign bodies such as screws and nails in the tyre’s treaded area.
Check the oil level
Hot temperatures mean your engine will be running in a hotter environment than usual. If that’s the case, it’s vital that it should be properly lubricated. If oil gets too hot it can break down. This is unlikely to happen as modern oils are designed to cope with hot and cold extremes in temperature. But oil’s ability to withstand the effects of heat will deteriorate the older the oil is.
So if you haven’t had your car serviced recently, think about having it done before your holiday. Alternatively check your oil level using the dip stick. Having the correct amount of oil in the engine is a sensible way of ensuring parts of it don’t run any hotter than they should.
Screen wash too
Windscreens in summer can become covered in a smeary soup of insects who’ve met their maker. Water alone isn’t sufficient to shift it. You need to have screen wash mixed into it. Washing up liquid won’t cut it so don’t even think about it!
Have your battery checked
Batteries are famous for not enjoying cold weather. But they don’t enjoy very hot weather much either. Batteries have liquid inside them and in very hot conditions, this can evaporate, causing the battery to weaken.
We’d advise going to a garage and asking for a battery health check. This will give you an idea of whether your battery is likely to see you through the summer and your holiday. The good news is, they’re often free. For example, in summer 2022 Halfords is offering a free car inspection including a battery health check.
And last but not least
It’s not strictly speaking a car check, but if you’re going to be driving abroad, we’d strongly advise you get breakdown cover before you go. You’ll get the best deal that way and trying get it when you really need it will be expensive and frustrating.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.