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Car Summer Maintenance Tips

Before hitting the road this summer, you can take several simple precautions to keep your family safe and save money at the pump. Extreme heat and long drives can be tough on cars. Cracked hoses, leaky radiators, underinflated tires and dirty filters can significantly lower your fuel efficiency, or worse, lead to a total breakdown.­

To get the most life out of a battery, the council recommends having the electrical system checked to make sure it is charging at the correct rate. If your car's battery is the type that needs to be topped off, check it often, especially in hot weather and add distilled water if necessary. Keep the top of the battery clean. Dirt can become a conductor, which drains battery power. If corrosion accumulates on battery terminals, it becomes an insulator and inhibits the current flow.

The cooling system also works harder during hot temperatures to prevent overheating of the engine. To keep the cooling system working effectively, the coolant and distilled water mixture for a vehicle's radiator should be 50:50. As a reminder, never open a hot radiator cap when checking the coolant level in the reservoir.

As a rule of thumb, the coolant should be changed annually on most vehicles. This will keep the cooling system fresh and clean inside, which helps prevent corrosion and assures that the coolant has the proper boiling point and protection. A pressure test, thermostat test, a cooling fan test and a visual inspection for leaks and corrosion should also be done annually. Hoses and drive belts should be checked for cracks, bulges or frayed edges.

The radiator should be kept clean by periodically using a garden hose and a soft brush to carefully remove bugs, dirt and debris.

Tires also need special care in warmer weather as high temperatures put added stress on them. To maximize tire life and safety, check the tire condition and inflation pressure monthly, and have the tires rotated every 6,000 miles. Summer heat will cause the pressure within a tire to rise, therefore, it's important to check the pressure when tires are cold. The owner's manual includes the recommended air pressure for your vehicle's tires.

"It takes very little time and money to make sure your car runs properly during summer, and although breakdowns happen, they can definitely be minimized by taking a few extra preventive maintenance steps," said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.

The council reminds motorists that the vehicle's exterior also can be damaged by sunlight, UV radiation, acid rain, salt, dirt and air pollution. To protect the paint and finish, vehicles should be washed weekly and waxed every six months.

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the "Be Car Care Aware" consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a copy of the council's Car Care Guide or for more information, visit How Stuff Works.

Image Source: How Stuff Works