Summer is practically upon us and will bring with it, unrelenting heat. Just as the heat affects your efficiency, it will tend to drain the efficiency of your vehicle, as well. Getting stuck in slow-moving traffic could make your car’s temperature shoot up immensely, putting it through a lot of strain. In the long run, this exposure to intense temperatures could damage your car and speed up its aging process.
Just like you have your ways to beat the heat, there are steps that will help your car cope with India's scorching temperatures, this summer. Most of these can be handled at authorised service centres or dealers. However, given the volume of cars coming in to these centres (especially through the summer heat) it is possible that the dealers may not be able to give your car the care and attention it requires. We suggest you drive down to an independent garage and get personally involved in the processes to brace your car for the heat wave.
Here are a few areas that require a car-owner's undivided attention:
Despite playing a key role at the tarmac-level, tyres are one of the most neglected parts of a car. Vehicle owners often forget to check their tyre pressure regularly. In fact, sadly, some owners aren’t even aware of the recommended pressure levels. This cam prove to be particularly disastrous during the summer, when poor inflation can push a car's tyres to destruction in a very short time.
Poor tyre-pressure management on a hot day could destroy your sidewall since the softer rubber is more prone to damage. On poor roads, this could even result in the tyres bursting. This is due to the excessive flexing or 'pumping' of the side wall of a soft tyre; it heats up just like the outside of a cycle pump and this causes the rubber inside to get soft, stretchy and an easy barrier for air to 'tear' through. So during summer, make sure you increase your tyre pressure by 3-5psi and keep a close eye on your tyres.
It's also important to remember is that tyre pressure changes according to the outside temperature. It decreases by approximately 1psi for every 10-degree drop in temperature. As the tyre heats up over the course of the day, it affects the air inside the tyre, which expands when heated during normal running. It is best to check the tyre pressure early in the morning, when it is relatively cooler, if you want an accurate reading and remember to do so at least once every two weeks.
Tyre pressure also needs to be adjusted in accordance with road conditions and vehicle load. For example, a vehicle carrying a full complement of passengers and luggage will require a higher tyre pressure than one with just two occupants.
Remember to check the condition and air pressure of your car's spare tyre as well – especially since it could turn out to be a life saver on a scorching summer day. Also, get the tyres properly aligned and balanced to avoid excessive tyre wear.
During the summers, a car's AC takes the most load. Air-conditioning systems, as we all know, are service-intensive. The compressor oil needs to be topped-up regularly to help protect the unit; and there are regular coolant leaks and dust and dirt can cause the system to overload and malfunction. Hence, get your car's AC unit checked by a qualified technician before the summer heat peaks.
A common summer complaint from car owners is that their car's air-conditioner takes too long to cool down the cabin. Irrespective of how powerful your AC unit is, it takes time due to all the heat trapped in the car. If your car remains parked under direct sunlight through the day, its interior temperature could exceed the temperature outside by around 10degC, or even more. Once you enter the car, roll down the windows first and let some of the heat escape. Switch to the highest fan setting and wait for a couple of minutes. Once you feel that the car’s interior temperature matching the outside, roll up the windows and switch the AC on.
This technique will significantly reduce the amount of time taken by the AC to cool down the cabin. Also, before leaving the car in parking, keep the windows rolled down by around half an inch to prevent heat build-up.
RADIATOR AND FLUIDS
Everyone and everything need a steady supply of fluids in the summer months. A good quality coolant is one of the most important fluids for your car to get it through the heat. In fact, one of the most common causes of vehicles breaking down during summer is the engine overheating due to low coolant levels. Remember to check the coolant level in your car and top it up if it’s low. If your car is more than three years old, get the radiator serviced before the summer haze – and while you are at it, check for any leaks. Also make sure you use the correct coolant. Using a cheaper one may seem like an attractive option, but it may prove to cause problems in the long run.
ENGINE, TRANSMISSION OIL
Heat will make you burn through engine oil like it's going out of style. Nothing destroys engine oil faster; and this is especially true if your car has oil which is already old and partly destroyed. So check your engine-oil levels routinely and get it topped up with the right oil. Alternatively, you could also drain the engine oil and use a more heat-resistant grade which is made to retain its viscosity, and reduce wear and tear under extreme operating conditions. Also get the fluid levels of the power steering, brake and transmission units checked, since these could be potential weak links.
HOSES AND BELTS
While being driven, the car's engine bay reaches rather high temperatures. Replacing parts once they reach a particular level of wear and tear is important. Otherwise, they won’t be able to withstand the high operating temperatures. Parts like hoses and belts suffer exceptionally more since they are made up of rubber compounds. Once something like a rubber hose gets hardened, it's only a matter of time until it ruptures. A physical check is really effective in this case. Check all clamps and clips too, and keep in mind that a loose clamp can be due to regular pressure build-up.
Excessive heat reduces battery life by causing the fluid inside to evaporate quicker. It even speeds up the chemical reaction inside a battery, leading to overcharging. Get the battery checked to find out if it’s charging at the correct rate. Also check for any corrosion on the battery terminals, ensure they are free of dirt and that all cable connections are secure. Most new cars come equipped with zero-maintenance batteries; but if your car uses a battery that needs regular distilled water top-ups, check fluid levels more often during the summer.
We normally associate a good coat of wax or polish with something which is only cosmetic. This is incorrect – a good polish will go a long way in protecting your car's paint from heating up excessively. This is because it forms a layer of protective wax on the paint that reflects a significant portion of the sun's heat. So polish your car polished before the summers hit and if possible, try and select a polish that adds a layer of protection to your paint as well.
In certain parts of our country, temperatures can rise to as high as 45degC during the day. Extreme heat ends up taking a toll on vehicles. Apart from causing the plastic and rubber components to crack, it can also make the fluids work harder at keeping the engine cool. Check the bits mentioned below, follow our tips and you will be able to breeze through the summer.