HCC’s Automotive Center of Excellence offers hot summer driving tips
May 22, 2019
As the long Memorial Day weekend approaches, launching what promises to be another long, hot Texas summer, Houston Community College (HCC) can help drivers keep their cool. The HCC Automotive Center of Excellence is offering some simple travel tips for road trips to prepare their car for the heat; therefore avoiding any unpleasant vacation stories.
“The best thing you can do is to prepare yourself, as well as your car,” said Richard Hakemack,” HCC Automotive Department Chair, who recommends stocking the car with plenty water, snacks and even umbrellas but, especially, making sure child seats are securely installed to safety standards. “After all, your cargo is more important than your car.”
According to Hakemack, drivers can avoid summer car trouble and stay safe if they just follow this simple maintenance checklist before traveling:
- Check the tire pressure. Tires lose or gain pressure daily, depending on the outside temperature, and Houston’s roads will wreak havoc on the best of them, so check the recommended pressure on the inside of your door, not what is on the tire itself. Also consider checking the alignment if traveling long distances.
- Test the battery. According to AAA, heat is the number one cause of battery failure, so traveling long distances in the summer can accelerate the rate of fluid loss, resulting in oxidation of battery components. Check for corrosion and other warning signs, and make sure the battery is securely fastened in place.
- Check the coolant system, as well as belts and hoses. Some consider overheating to be the greatest cause of summer breakdowns, so coolant levels are of utmost importance. Also flush periodically, but between flushes, check the overflow reservoir and top off with a 50/50 mix of water and recommended coolant, but never remove the radiator cap while the engine is hot. Boiling coolant under pressure could cause serious burns.
- Have brakes inspected. Long commutes, stop-and-go traffic and seasonal weather can all affect the brakes of a vehicle, so it may be time for a good look at them. This should be done every 40,000 to 50,000 miles as routine maintenance, but certainly before a major road trip.
- Never run on empty. Watch your fuel tank while driving, and do not let it go below one-quarter of a tank. High temperatures and a low fuel level heat up the fuel pump, and can cause premature wear on those components. It is best to keep the tank full, especially when traveling, because a station may not be available for a while.
- Make sure all fluids are at appropriate levels. For a trip, always check the oil and oil filter, but take the opportunity to check other fluids, as well, such as power steering, brake fluid and even wiper fluids.
“Windshield wipers are the most neglected maintenance item in our car, and the least expensive,” said Hakemack of the wipers and fluid. “All you have to do is go to your nearest auto parts store, and they will most likely install them for you.”
Hakemack says the summer heat can damage wipers, and drivers may not even realize it until they are faced with a heavy rainstorm in the middle of a road trip. That point drives home the all-important tip to:
- Be prepared. Autotrader suggests planning for the trip by making a list of everything needed, from sunglasses, hats, travel mugs and phone chargers to weather forecasts, flashlights and tool kits. And travelers should be sure to confirm that all insurance cards and driver’s licenses are up-to-date.
Finally, comfort is key on the road; for the driver and the car. Whether checking the AC system before heading out on the highway or making a few more bathroom breaks along the way, to stretch some legs, remember that it is hot out there. Everyone—and the car—needs a little more tender loving care.