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End of Summer Vehicle Maintenance Checklist

End-of-Summer Vehicle Checklist

Give your car a good pat on its back (or hood). It made it through the summer and deserves (now more than ever) the auto version of a spa treatment. Summer can be rough on vehicles: heat, dust, stop-and-go traffic, and road trips can take their toll on cars.

This Top 10 End-of-Summer Vehicle Checklist includes a number of items you’ll want to consider - especially if you have student drivers in your household heading back to school.

1. Tire Pressure

Make sure all the drivers in your house know to check the guidelines in the vehicle owner’s manual or tire sticker attached to the inside of their vehicle’s door to determine the correct tire and air pressure for their vehicles. New drivers in your household may not know that their vehicle’s optimal tire pressure is NOT the tire pressure listed on the white walls of their tires.

2. Tire Tread

The tread on your tires should be greater than 4/32”. An easy way to check is to use a quarter (not a penny). The old penny test only lets you know if you have 2/32” of remaining tread, which isn’t good enough if you plan on driving in rain or snow (basically if you live anywhere - on any continent). The quarter test is a better indicator:

  • Place an upside down quarter between the tread ribs on your tire.

  • If the top of Washington’s head disappears between the ribs, your tread is still above 4/32 of an inch -- which is good.

  • If you can see Washington’s entire head, it’s about time to replace that tire.

* The quarter test is just an indicator. If you think your tires may be close to needing replacement, have them checked by a licensed mechanic.

3. Protect your Interior/Exterior

Removing all of the dirt, grime, sand, mud, etc that has built up from all the summer trips will help keep your interior nice for the long run. The longer dirt sits in the vehicle, the more it gets ground into the fabric, making it more difficult to remove. A good hand wash and coat of wax will keep the vehicle looking nice and protected through the fall.

4. Check Headlights, Brake Lights, and Turn Signals

Check all the vehicle’s lights to make sure they function properly and that the bulbs are all working. Dim and dead lights are dangerous!

5. Cabin and Engine Air Filters

Cabin air filters trap the dust and particulates from the air that feeds into your vehicle’s ventilation, heating, and air conditioning systems - and thus into your passenger compartment. A clogged cabin air filter can’t filter the incoming air as effectively as a clean filter and can restrict the flow of air to your heating and cooling systems which can then affect the effectiveness of your systems.

The engine air filter is responsible for cleaning the air that your car’s engine uses to mix with the fuel. A clogged engine air filter will smother the car’s engine by not allowing enough clean air to reach it. Without the proper amount of air to mix with the fuel, your car will experience less combustion power and less horsepower. Change your filters regularly (every 12,000-15,000 miles) for increased fuel efficiency, reduced emissions, prolonged engine life, and optimal air flow.

6. Fluid levels

Hot weather can be especially draining (literally) on your vehicle’s fluids. Review with all the drivers in your household how to check the fluid levels in their vehicles: engine oil, windshield wiper fluid, coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and power steering fluid.

7. Battery strength

On average, a car battery might last three to five years - but driving habits and other factors (such as exposure to extreme elements) can shorten battery life. The car battery provides the jolt of electricity needed to power all of the electrical components in your vehicle. Signs that it might need replacing include a slow engine crank, check engine light, a rotten egg smell around the battery, and low battery fluid level. Also, if the battery is over three years old you may want to check it annually to assess its efficiency - especially if you live in an area that experiences cold winters.

8. Brakes

Undeniably one of the most critical safety systems in your car is its brakes. Does the car stop quickly and immediately? Do you hear any grinding or squealing during braking? Brake pads need to be replaced periodically and rotors machined to keep the car braking as it should.

9. Proof of insurance

Check to make sure that everyone’s proof of insurance is up to date. Proof of insurance shows you have met your state's car insurance requirements & financial responsibility laws.

10. Emergency Kit

Having roadside assistance is essential, but every car should have a set of jumper cables in it. Other emergency supplies include a flashlight and extra batteries, reflective warning triangles, a well-supplied first-aid kit (include adhesive tape, gauze pads, aspirin, antiseptic wipes, antiseptic cream or ointment, and anything particular to you or your family), a blanket, duct tape, a multi-purpose utility tool, foam tire sealant, a tire gauge, a snow shovel, a windshield ice scraper, and a rain poncho.

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