(Los Angeles, June 17, 2005) — Next Tuesday is the first day of summer, but Southern California has already had its first days of dry heat. With rising temperatures and motorists hitting the roads in droves for summer vacations, the Automobile Club of Southern California is urging motorists to "summer-ize" their cars and trucks.
"It's likely a summer road trip will involve driving in temperatures above 90 degrees and that's when breakdowns happen to cars that aren't prepared for hot weather," said Dave Skaien, the Auto Club's Approved Auto Repair Manager. "On days when the mercury hits the 90s and 100s, the number of Auto Club members experiencing breakdowns increases by 50 percent."
Many motorists know that hot weather contributes to radiators overheating, but extreme heat also can sap weak batteries of their remaining energy, cripple air conditioning system and create or enlarge hose leaks and snap worn belts.
Before packing the luggage and putting the children in the car, motorists should check the following maintenance items, or have them checked by a trustworthy or certified auto mechanic:
- Inspect the antifreeze/coolant level, making sure the mixture of water and coolant is used according to the specifications in the vehicle owner's manual. Also check to make sure the coolant has been flushed and changed as recommended by the vehicle maintenance schedule.
- Inspect and replace worn or cracked belts, as well as hoses that are worn, cracked, blistered, brittle, or too soft. Even belts and hoses that look fine, should be replaced as a safety precaution, if more than 5 years old.
- Check tires for uneven wear or excessive tread wear and make sure all tires, including the spare, are properly inflated. Inflate tires to recommended pressure. Under-inflated tires are a safety hazard and can cut gas mileage by as much as two percent per pound of pressure below the recommended level.
- Check the level and condition of engine oil. When driving under extreme conditions such as 90 to 100-plus degree temperatures, or when towing a heavy trailer, consider switching to heavier motor oil. Check the owner's manual "severe driving conditions" section for oil recommendations.
- Since high temperatures can compromise batteries, test and replace old or weak batteries, if necessary. Be sure to check the water level of batteries with removable cell caps. If the battery is more than three years old, have it tested because it might need to be replaced.
- Check the transmission fluid for the correct level and that it doesn't smell burnt or look dirty, since heat can make the fluid less effective. This is especially important for vehicles that are used for towing. Check the owners' manual for the right type of transmission fluid to use and the proper interval for service and replacement.
- Inspect brake fluid for proper level and condition. Low brake fluid could be an indication of excessive brake wear or fluid leak. Dirty brake fluid that is dark colored like coffee is an indication of contamination or moisture in the brake fluid. A thorough inspection of the brakes and flushing of the brake fluid is probably needed.
- Inspect power steering fluid for proper level and condition. Low power steering fluid can cause damage to the power steering system and dirty and or burnt power steering fluid can lead to premature power steering failure.
- Don't leave home without fresh windshield wiper blades and the "forgotten" fluid, windshield washer fluid. Fresh blades and windshield washer fluid will help to remove road dirt and insects from your windshield. Use pre-mixed fluid, not water from a garden hose. The premixed fluid contains ingredients that are safe for exterior vehicle paint.
Even well maintained cars and trucks can break down, so on long trips; take along drinking water, a windshield shade, and a wireless phone. Also pack a comprehensive emergency kit with a flashlight, a basic tool kit, a gallon of water and a gallon of coolant.
To assist motorists in locating reliable mechanics that provide high quality maintenance and repairs and guarantee their work, the Auto Club has certified more than 600 auto repair shops in Southern California as "approved auto repair" facilities. These facilities undergo regular inspections and must maintain rigorous standards of service, use quality repair equipment and employ properly trained technicians. To find the nearest Auto Club-approved auto repair facility, log on to www.aaa.com, or call 1-800-713-0003 or visit a local Auto Club office.