As temperatures rise, it’s time to perform a summer maintenance check on your vehicles. But, do you know what to look for when it comes to preparing your fleet for the summer season? A few minutes with this simple 11-point checklist could help you save time and trouble down the road.
Your tires may have taken a pounding during the winter months. Drastic temperature changes can cause fluctuations in tire pressure, and improperly inflated tires can reduce gripping action when you need it the most. Prepare your tires for warmer weather by:
- Removing snow tires for better fuel economy.
- Checking tire pressure a few times a month and making note of any fluctuations. You may even consider using nitrogen for more consistent pressure.
- Checking the tread depth and looking for any signs of excessive wear, replacing tires if necessary.
- Making sure the spare tire is properly inflated and has ample tread depth, you never know when you might need it!
2. Oil & Filter
Changing your vehicle's oil and filter is probably one of the easiest preventative measures you can take. Of course, the big question that's always up to debate is “when”?
Depending on where you drive, winter weather can take a toll on your motor oil. Extremely cold (as well as extremely hot) temperatures can speed up the thermal breakdown of oil, causing it to become less effective as a lubricant.
Most owner's manuals will recommend that you change your oil every 3,000 – 5,000 miles. But, if your vehicles have been operating in extreme temperatures, carrying heavy cargo or driving on dirt roads, you may want to consider doing one sooner.
3. Hoses & Belts
Belts and hoses are the connectors that help all of your vehicle's components work together. They carry vital fluids such as oil and coolant as well as trigger other mechanisms, such as the air conditioner and power steering. According to the Car Care Council:
- Timing belts (like the one that turns your engine) should be replaced every 60,000 – 90,000 miles.
- V-belts (those that turn your vehicle's accessories) should be replaced every 40,000 – 50,000 miles.
Changing worn belts and hoses at the beginning of the season can help avoid a breakdown later on.
4. Air Filter
Over the winter, your air filter can become clogged with salt and other debris. Making sure to change it at regular intervals can help increase your gas mileage and make sure your vehicle's systems are getting the fresh air they need, especially on those hot summer days.
Most vehicle manufacturers will recommend changing the air filter every 12,000 – 15,000 miles. Of course, the only real way to know if you need to replace your air filter is to take it out and give it a quick inspection.
Ice and snow can be brutal on the delicate rubber blades of your vehicle's wipers, causing them to crack and fray. The best time to inspect them is at the beginning of the spring season. If your wipers are leaving streaks or take several passes to clear away light rain, they need to be replaced.
6. Brake pads & Shoes
Neglecting to change your brake pads can be dangerous and costly. Wait too long and not only are they less effective at stopping your vehicle, but will continue to wear and cause damage to the rotors as well.
Fortunately, most disc brakes include a small metal part called a “wear indicator”. As the pads wear down, the wear indicator grinds against the metal of the rotors causing a high pitched squealing sound. That means it's time to inspect and replace your vehicle's brake pads.
7. Coolant & Radiator Fluid
Over time rust, dirt and debris make their way into your coolant, breaking down its efficacy. In addition, summer heat can be tough on your vehicle's cooling system, leading to overheating and damage to your engine.
As a preventative, make sure to check your levels periodically, and consult your owner's manual to help determine the best time to drain and replace your coolant.
Heat is the enemy of any vehicle battery. On average, a car battery will last for about three to five years. If the battery is more than five years old, it may be worth replacing in order to save the aggravation of dealing with a dead battery when you least expect it. Keep the terminals tight and free of any corrosion by using a battery corrosion cleaner.
As temperatures begin to thaw, make sure check the power steering, brake, transmission and windshield washer fluids. In fact, it's good time to make this part of your routine each time you perform an oil change.
10. Air Conditioning
The best time to test your air conditioner is on the first warm day of the spring season. This will help save you the aggravation of any surprises on a hot summer day.
11. Vehicle Cleaning
If you live in a snowy climate, it’s recommended that you clean the undercarriage of your vehicle to remove any road salt.
Spring is also a good time to thoroughly wash and wax your vehicle to protect the finish from harmful dirt and the suns damaging UV rays. Keep the windows clean inside and outside to improve visibility and help reduce the amount of glare.
Finally, make sure you keep an emergency kit in your vehicle. Some good items to include are a flashlight, jumper cables, flares or warning triangles, an empty gasoline container and a first-aid kit.