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Help Your Car Beat The Heat

Leah Ingram of SuddenlyFrugal shares her tips for how to care for your car during the summer heat…

The Northeast finally got out of its recent heat wave, and it couldn’t have come soon enough for this car owner. It was so exhausting to get into my car each day and have it feel like an oven. Because of the heat, I had to stop taking my pets on errands with me (no field trips to PetSmart with my dogs Sadie and Oscar until it cooled off). And the heat did a real number on my car, too.

Whether or not it’s true that extreme weather can cause windows to shatter, the truth is it happened to my 2005 Ford Freestyle a few days ago. I came home to find the back windshield shattered. I live on a quiet street with nary any traffic so my only explanation is the heat.

I also noticed that my tires have been feeling funky. And well there is some truth to that, too. According to some news reports, extreme heat can affect the pressure in car tires, making them more susceptible to blow outs. In fact, AAA sees a spike in summer roadside assistance requests—not just for flat tires but also batteries that don’t work and engines that are giving drivers trouble.

So before you hit the road this summer, make sure you consider these six summer car care tips.

1. Keep Tires Inflated
Now that you know that hot weather can affect your tire pressure, what can you do about it? Ensure that tires are properly inflated. According to Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, tires should be inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations printed on the vehicle door placard or in the owner’s manual, not the number on the tire. Goodyear says that nearly seven in 10 of us are driving around on underinflated tires.

2. Check Tire Tread
Tires with good treads help with safe driving. Try this coin test to see if your tires need replacing or not. Take a penny and insert it upside down along your treads. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, those treads are dead and you need new tires.

3. Top Off Fluids
Make sure that your fluids under the hood are all at optimal levels. Also, if you have a big road trip scheduled, you may want to get an oil change before you leave. According to Jiffy Lube, motor oil does more than just lubricate moving parts. It cools areas of the engine and provides protection over a wide temperature range. If you’ve got older motor oil, it may not do its job as well as it could.

4. Read Up on Recalls
We just received a letter from Honda, letting us know that our 2003 Honda Accord is a part of the airbag recall that’s been in the news lately. Turns out the driver’s side and passenger side airbags need to be replaced. Other drivers may not be aware that they have a recalled vehicle and that it still needs to be repaired. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s VIN Lookup Tool lets you enter a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to quickly learn if a specific vehicle has not been repaired as part of a safety recall. This tool covers recalls within the last 15 years.

5. Replace Wiper Blades
When was the last time you put new wiper blades on your car? If it’s longer than six months, you need new ones. After six months blades stop working well and could affect your visibility while driving in the rain.

6. Plan for an Emergency
No one ever plans to get stuck on the side of the road, but emergencies do happen. Autotrader suggests keeping an emergency kit in your car, not only for summer road trips but also throughout the year. What should go in that kit? Jumper cables, a flashlight, paper towels, roadside flares, a first-aid kit, bottled water, car charger for cell phone, and even snacks like granola bars, among other necessities you think you might need if you got stranded.

Finally, if you won’t have the time to address all of these summer car care fixes before you head out on your trip, you may want to consider renting a car. One summer, when we had two cars limping past the 100,000-mile mark, we rented a car for our summer road trip to Vermont. We figured this would give us peace of mind while driving and, to be honest, the rate wasn’t that expensive. Hertz says that renting a car might actually save you money. More than 80 percent of Hertz’s fleet receives over 28 highway miles per gallon. So unless the cars in your driveway have that impressive MPG or better, renting might be the smart, frugal option.

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