When the topic of “seasonal car maintenance” comes around, most people’s minds probably jump to winter car maintenance, and what to do to protect your vehicle from the cold and snow. What most don’t consider, however, are all the steps you should really take to protect your car during the hottest tropical weather. Damage caused by extreme heat and moisture can be equally damaging to your car if not properly defended against.
If you’re worried about finding a way to protect your brand new Chevy Spark in Miami, for instance, there are just a few key maintenance points you should regularly check to make sure your vehicle is capable of performing great even on the hottest, most humid days.
Check Your Oil and Fluids
Your engine is a pretty powerful machine, with hundreds of moving parts generating friction as they work together to move your car. The result is a lot of heat buildup within your engine block – which your car is built to handle. The problem comes in when the outside temperature is also very high, which can increase the likelihood of your engine overheating and burning out.
Having your engine reach exceptionally high temperatures can also do serious damage to your motor oil, essentially baking the oil as it drains from the engine and causing sludgy buildup of burnt oil. This can seriously damage your engine over time, and so it’s important to check your oil regularly and make sure it is in proper condition.
The same thing can happen to your transmission fluid as well, which despite its ability to generally handle higher temperatures is still vulnerable to decay under extreme heat. This can do serious damage to the inner workings of your transmission and could potentially be fatal for your car, so make sure to check your transmission fluid every so often and make sure everything looks – and smells – fairly clear and neutral.
Many drivers in hot, tropical climates may also want to consider switching to a synthetic motor oil, like the ones found in high-performance sports cars. These synthetic oils are designed to better withstand high heat over long periods of time and are less likely to burn up and sludge. Although more expensive to purchase, these oils generally save your engine from damage in the long run.
Another good way to prevent engine heat buildup is to make sure your engine has enough coolant. Eyeball your coolant reservoir from time to time and make sure the level is hovering somewhere around the “Full” line – that way, you know you won’t find yourself with a burning engine and nothing in the tank to cool it down.
Protect Against Salt Damage
If you live near the ocean or close to a beach, you might need to think about finding some sort of protection for your car from the wind, which can often carry corrosive saltwater particles with it. This can damage and wear away your paint faster than usual, and the salt in the air will contribute to faster rusting around the vehicle’s frame.
The best way to protect from salt damage is to regularly wash your vehicle with clean water and soap, which will remove the salt residue while a wax coating can help prevent further residue from sticking. Other drivers near the ocean choose to buy a fitted cover for their vehicle, which can also protect your car from the damaging salt wind.
Tires Should Be In Good Condition
If you’ve ever been driving down the highway on a hot summer day and been surprised by the spine-shaking explosion of a truck tire blowout somewhere down the road, you’re well aware of the importance of taking care of your tires during the hotter months.
Without proper care tire pressure can build up under high temperatures, and the added heat generated when traveling at high speeds can combine to be more than the tire can handle. Having a blowout on the highway can be dangerous, and it can seriously damage your wheel if you’re going too fast. It’s important to regularly check your tire pressure and release some air here and there as need be.
A/C Has to Work
If you’ve lived as far south as Miami you know that during the hot summer months it gets really hot – and with intense humidity on top of that, simply walking around outside can feel like being in an oven. Air conditioning is less of a luxury and more of a necessity, and on those intense mid-August scorchers you’re going to need that thing to work.
Sometime in early Spring, bring your vehicle to a mechanic for an A/C performance check, They can measure your system’s pressure, make sure all the critical components are in working order, and make sure there is no mold buildup or blocked hoses from moisture. With a clean and working system you’ll be able to stay cool under even the hottest rays of the sun.
Windshield Wipers in the Sun
Although windshield wipers are another part of your car that most people associate with taking damage in the winter from ice and snow, the rubber blades can also be dried and cracked by intense sunlight and by UV radiation from the sun.
If possible, try to park the front of your car in the shade during those hottest parts of the year. This will not only prevent heat from seeping in through your windshield but will also protect your wiper blades from taking heat and light damage when the sun is strongest.
Obviously, if you notice your wipers are leaving streaks or missing sections of the windshield, consider changing the blades as soon as possible to ensure you have proper protection from reduced visibility in the rain.
Check Battery Life
For many drivers, the only maintenance you can do for a battery is wait for it to run its course and then change it when it starts to die. Contrary to popular belief, however, leaving your battery to swelter under hot temperatures for too long or too often can actually do more harm than cold temperatures, and in the summer months it’s important to check your battery every so often and confirm that it is functioning properly and holding a charge.
When the battery gets too hot in the summer, the internal battery fluids can actually evaporate and damage the battery’s internal workings. Some batteries can actually be topped off with distilled water, which should restore it back to working order.
The hot weather can also encourage nasty buildup on your battery’s terminals, which can weaken the connection and lead to further damage to your battery itself. Make sure to thoroughly clean off any buildup with baking soda and water when you notice it and your battery will continue to run like new for a while yet.
Until some serious science happens in the future, there’s really no way to prevent the heat itself and so the best way to prevent damage to your vehicle as a result of the heat and humidity is to take preventative action through regular, careful maintenance. Simply keeping an eye on your vehicle’s critical components and making minor adjustments here and there can save you from having to make expensive, immediate repairs down the road, and you’ll be able to drive happier for much, much longer on even the hottest tropical island.