As the weather turns towards hotter temperatures, it's time to think about what kind of stress your vehicle experiences during the warmer months. Just like winter driving, summer driving requires preparation and patience, although it is less stressful than driving on ice :)
Maintain your vehicle
Regular maintenance such as tune-ups, oil changes, battery checks, and tire rotations go a long way toward preventing breakdowns. If your vehicle has been serviced according to the manufacturer's recommendations, it should be in good condition to travel. If not—or you don't know the service history of the vehicle you plan to drive—schedule a preventive maintenance checkup with your mechanic right away.
Check A/C performance before traveling. Lack of air conditioning on a hot summer day affects people who are in poor health or are sensitive to heat, such as children and older adults.
Coolant level and servicing
The radiator in your vehicle needs water and antifreeze (coolant) to keep your engine functioning properly. When your car hasn't been running and the engine is completely cool, carefully check your coolant level to make sure the reservoir is full. In addition, if your coolant is clear, looks rusty, or has particles floating in it, it is time to have your cooling system flushed and refilled. If your coolant looks sludgy or oily, immediately take your vehicle to a mechanic.
Oil, brake, transmission, power steering, and windshield washer fluids
Check your vehicle's oil level periodically. As with coolant, if it's time or even nearly time to have the oil changed, now would be a good time to do it. In addition, check the following fluid levels: brake, automatic transmission or clutch, power steering, and windshield washer. Make sure each reservoir is full; if you see any signs of fluid leakage, take your vehicle in to be serviced.
Condition and fittings
Look under the hood and inspect all belts and hoses to make sure there are no signs of bulges, blisters, cracks, or cuts in the rubber. High summer temperatures accelerate the rate at which rubber belts and hoses degrade, so it's best to replace them now if they show signs of obvious wear. While you're at it, check all hose connections to make sure they're secure.
Wear and tear on both sides
After the heavy toll imposed by winter storms and spring rains, windshield wiper blades may need to be replaced. Like rubber belts and hoses, wiper blades are vulnerable to the summer heat. Examine your blades for signs of wear and tear on both sides. The blades can also deform and fail to work properly in both directions. If they aren't in top condition, invest in new ones before you go.
Proper size and correct installation
Improperly installed floor mats in your vehicle may interfere with the operation of the accelerator or brake pedal, increasing the risk of a crash.
Remove old floor mats before the installation of new mats; never stack mats. Use mats that are the correct size and fit for your vehicle. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for mat installation. Use available retention clips to secure the mat and prevent it from sliding forward. Every time the mats are removed for any reason, verify that the driver's mat is reinstalled correctly. Lights
Headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, interior lights, and trailer lights
See and be seen! Make sure all the lights on your vehicle are in working order. Check your headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and interior lights. Towing a trailer? Be sure to also check your trailer including brake lights and turn signals. A failure of the trailer light connection is a common problem and a serious safety hazard.
Most importantly, drive defensively! Anticipate the actions of others and avoid distractions such as cell phone use. New Jersey State Defensive Driving can also help lower your insurance and remove points from your driving record.