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Ready your car for summer roadtrips

Posted June 17, 2010
Updated June 18, 2010

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— With summer in full swing, a lot of people will be hitting the road for summer vacations.

Rich Cregar, a nationally known automotive technician who teaches at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, said drivers should do seven things to make sure they are ready to roll.

1. Leave the air conditioner problems to the professionals. Do not try to recharge the system for yourself.

“Auto air conditioning systems have gotten very good and really we don't have nearly the need for recharge that we used to,” Cregar said.

If drivers have any worries about their air conditioner,  they should take it to a mechanic, he said.

2. Check your coolant. Use an inexpensive tester to make sure you're protected.

A lot of people use plain tap water instead of a proper coolant and Cregar said that's not smart.

“If I used tap water alone without mixing it with antifreeze, I’m going to get rust,” he said.

Use a 50-50 blend of water and the correct coolant.

Mechanic offers tips on car care Mechanic offers tips on car care

3. Check your tires. Good traction is crucial when you're driving through a summer storm.

“When the wear bars become flush with the tread, it's time to replace the tire,” Cregar said.

Make sure your tires are properly inflated and not only for better gas mileage. Under-inflated tires create friction, which generates heat that can cause a blowout.

4. Check your belts.

Make sure your belts are in good shape and not full of cracks and gouges. "If the belt breaks, you're going to sit on the side of the road," Cregar said.

5. Check your battery.

If it's more than three years old, you might want to take it to a shop and get it tested, Cregar said. Weak batteries can fail suddenly in hot weather.

"You're just going to come out to the parking lot with a bag full of groceries and the car's just not going to start," he said.

6. Check for oil leaks. They can ignite at the extreme temperatures found in the engine block and cause an under-hood fire. Always carry a small fire extinguisher in the car.

Also, mechanics say North Carolina's high dust levels mean drivers should change their oil more often. Cregar recommends changing your oil every 5,000 to 7,500 miles.

You may want to use a thicker oil, which will give more protection to engine components in summer heat. Never exceed your manufacturer's recommendations.

7. Check wiper blades.

The ground-level ozone we see in the summer degrades the rubber on the wiper blade, Cregar said. Make sure yours are in good condition.

In addition to these tips, Cregar said if drivers want to improve gas mileage they can roll down their windows and turn off the air conditioner down when driving in town.

On the highway, it’s more efficient to roll up the windows and turn on the air conditioner, he said.


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