The 7 Signs Of Summer Stress

Those autumn leaves are a colorful reminder--it’s time for your vehicle’s post-summer checkup.

Nothing takes as much toll on your vehicle as hot summer months. Here’s our list of the seven most common issues that can turn minor upkeep into expensive repairs.

1. Tire tread. All-season tires have treads that wick away moisture, making them especially useful in wet weather. Winter tires are made from some softer rubber compounds that better adapt to frigid temperatures.

2. Tire pressure. Summer weather expands air and increases tire pressure, while cool autumn temperatures contract air in your vehicle tires. Moreover, tires lose about one to three pounds per square inch per month, according to tire experts. Drivers can extend tire life and improve fuel economy by keeping tires properly inflated. Remember to check your spare tire as well. For the most accurate reading, test pressure when tires are cool. Usually, that means your tires have not been driven for at least two hours.

3. Radiator fluid level. Like oil, engine coolant has a service limit. Over time the water in the coolant evaporates, causing the mixture to become imbalanced. Insufficient coolant can lead to your engine overheating.

4. Battery test. Summer sun evaporates battery fluid and can weaken batter cells, reducing electrical capacity. Cold weather slows down the chemical reaction in batteries.  Those first cold mornings of autumn can cause your battery to fail and leave you stranded. A vehicle’s charging system should be checked every three months or every oil change. Batteries that are more than three years old should be tested more frequently.

5. Steering alignment. Your car won’t drive straight and true if the wheels are out of alignment. Short term it means you’ll drift out of your lane. Long term, poor alignment will ruin your tires.

6. Windshield cracks. Type, size, depth and location of the damage determines what kind of service is required. For example, a small ding or small crack in the lower right corner of your windshield may be fixed using a chip repair service. Larger cracks and chips generally require windshield replacement. A vehicle windshield plays an integral role in airbag deployment, and replacement is paramount for crash safety.

“A broken windshield isn’t something you should put off fixing,” said Melina Metzger, public relations manager for Safelite AutoGlass. “Windshields are a major part of a vehicle’s structural integrity, and damaged glass reduces your visibility.”

7. Leaks and spills. Summer heat may have cracked hoses, look for drips and dribbles on your garage. Different colors spills mean different type of car troubles. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) offers the following tips and insight about fluid leaks:

Red: Leak likely associated with the transmission or power steering system.
Black: Old oil, transmission fluid that’s gone bad.
Green: Engine coolant, used to prevent the motor from overheating.
Yellow: Brake fluid, the darker shades of yellow mean the fluid is aging and needs replacement. Old brake fluid takes on oxygen and reduces brake performance.
Blue: Windshield washer fluid
Clear: Water, power steering fluid or gasoline.

Driving tips for Autumn

  • Window cleaning. Late sunrises and early sunsets, especially with the return to standard time, create windshield glare. Keeping both sides of your windshield clean gives you a better view of the road, day or night. Use a streak-free window cleaner and a microfiber towel with a flat pattern for best results.
  • Slick roads. Water brings oil, muck and grime embedded in the road up to the surface of the pavement. So the first rain after a prolonged dry spell can make for especially slick roadways. Exercise caution and drive with care.
  • Distracted driving. Don’t text, eat, or groom yourself while driving. Don’t take your eyes off the road to converse with passengers and keep the music at a reasonable volume. Do not drive with headphones or earbuds, as they can prevent you from hearing sirens or other pertinent warnings. 
  • Seat restraints. The seat belt is the most important passenger safety feature in any vehicle. The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration estimates seat belts saved the lives of nearly 15,000 people in 2017 alone and more than 69,000 lives during the five-year period from 2013 through 2017.
  • Cone zones. Road work remains one of the most dangerous lines of work in the country. Law enforcement takes safety in construction zones seriously and traffic infractions in active construction zones can come with enhanced fines and penalties.
  • School zones. A school bus with an extended stop arm and flashing red lights means your vehicle must stop and wait until the warnings are withdrawn. This is true for both lanes of traffic (except when approaching the front of the school bus on a separated roadway).