Safe-T Buzz Tip: Get Your Car in Shape for Summer
Families across the Metroplex have highlighted Memorial Day weekend and summer vacations on their calendars. Gyms are filling with people planning to spend warm months on the beach. Car maintenance should be among the preparations for summer weather and road trips. Experts at NADAguides.com, a leading provider of consumer vehicle data and services, have put together the list below of necessary steps to get your car in shape for the road.
Tires are important -- they're the only things connecting your car to the road, so examine them carefully. Pay close attention to tire pressure and tire tread -- you can buy a tire pressure gauge and tread depth gauge from an auto parts store. When checking tire pressure, refer to your vehicle's owner's manual for correct air pressure information or refer to information usually posted on the inside of your car's doorjamb. If you’ve placed new tires on your car since you bought it, check the tire sidewall for inflation information. Check your tires before you drive even one mile (when they're cold) to determine if you need to inflate or deflate each tire to arrive at the correct pressure. Next, use the tread depth gauge to determine if you need to replace your tires – each tire should have at least 2/32 of an inch of tread. Finally, be sure to check your spare tire for adequate tire pressure and tread depth as well.
You should thoroughly check your spare tire and jack system at least twice per year. If you’re not familiar with changing a tire, practice at home before an emergency happens on the road. If you’re on an NTTA roadway when you get a flat tire, our Roadway Customer Service team is available to help. Just call 9-1-1 or our Command Center at 972-444-HELP (4357) for help. (The phone number is listed on your TollTag for quick reference.)
2. Got Fluids?
Hot summer weather can wreak havoc on your car's engine -- that's why it's important to check your vehicle's fluids to keep it running smoothly and reliably this summer. If you don't know how to check your car's fluids, refer to your owner's manual or have your local mechanic assist you. Start with the oil – NADAguides.com suggests using a thicker-weight oil in the summer, because hot weather tends to thin oil, which can cause inadequate lubrication of important engine parts. While you're at it, make sure you check the transmission, differential, power steering and brake fluids. You might need to replace or refill the liquids. And finally, be sure to fill the windshield wiper fluid and coolant, which is designed to prevent your car from overheating during hot summer months. If your car overheats, the safest thing to do may be to steer carefully to the shoulder of the road, stay in the car, and call for help. Again, if you’re on an NTTA roadway, our Roadway Customer Service team is available to help.
3. Motor Skills
Lift the hood and check your car's engine components. Start by examining the battery and cables for any cracks, corrosion or dirt. Hot weather can shorten the life of your battery – if you need to, replace it before a long road trip. Next up? Take a look at the radiator and hoses for cracks and leaks, and don't forget to change the air filter. Air filters prevent dirt and dust from seeping into your engine, which can decrease the performance of your car's engine while reducing gas mileage in the process. Most cars also have an air filter for passenger cabin air, which should be checked routinely. Don't know a thing about checking your engine components? Any certified mechanic can help.
4. Component Check 101
Finally, check the components of your car, including the air conditioning, windshield wipers and the exterior and interior lights (including the “check engine” light). Turn your air conditioning on, let it run for a while and then turn it off. Listen for unusual noises and be sure to put your hand in front of the air vent to gauge the air temperature. Replace worn windshield wiper blades. Be sure to test all of your vehicle's interior and exterior lights, including your headlight high beams to make sure they're working properly. Never leave home for a long road trip when the “check engine” light is on or when a malfunction indicator light is illuminated. It's important to have engine problems diagnosed and fixed prior to your departure.
5. Safety First
NADAguides.com recommends having a well-stocked emergency kit in your car at all times, especially for long road trips. Be sure to include a basic tool kit (such as screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers), emergency flares, a flashlight with fresh batteries, jumper cables, a tire iron, a jack and plenty of drinking water, in case you're stranded for a long period of time.
"Not only are these inspection and safety tips important in preparing you for a summer road trip, they're a vital part of regular car care, no matter the season," said Mark Perleberg, an auto expert with NADAguides.com. "Get in the habit of inspecting your car – or having a certified mechanic at your local car dealership inspect your car – on a regular basis. An ounce of car care prevention can help you avoid costly and unnecessary repairs in the future."
If you do find yourself stranded on an NTTA roadway, the NTTA’s Roadway Customer Service team is always on call to help motorists at no charge. To get help from Roadway Customer Service, or if there is an emergency, call 9-1-1 or the NTTA Command Center at 972-444-HELP (4357), which is listed on your TollTag.