How To Avoid A Car Breakdown This Summer
Many motorists worry when winter is on the way; however, most of us don’t realise that increased heat during the summer months, can be just as hard on our cars as the chill of winter. In this blog, we’ve compiled a guide to driving during the summer, detailing how to avoid the most frequent breakdown problems. We also highlight some general car maintenance tips to help keep you on the road this summer.
Below are the five most common breakdowns in warm weather and how motorists can avoid them.
Although car batteries struggle over winter, summer can still give them a tough time too, with them being the number one cause for breakdowns in the UK according to Green Flag.
Battery problems crop up due to increasing start‐stop use, such as in traffic and more frequent short journeys. Also, in scenarios where the whole family is heading out on a long trip, more devices such as phones and sat navs are plugged in, and the radio and air‐con are used too. This places a considerable strain on the battery and the alternator, particularly in slow traffic, because the electrical system in the car might not be generating enough power to restock the battery drain.
If your vehicle has an older battery, it’s a good idea to look at getting it replaced before making any long journeys in warmer weather. Generally speaking, batteries run on a three‐year replacement cycle, which means that problems can begin to set in around four to five years. It’s also a good idea to limit frequent short journeys where possible, mainly if you’re plugging in devices and using your air conditioning system.
Alternator and battery issues come hand‐in‐hand. The excessive demand on the alternator caused by extra devices being plugged into ports in the car, combined with the warm weather, is sure to highlight any problems quite quickly.
A sign of alternator failure is usually the car’s red battery warning light on the dashboard – this will either go on and off or continuously remain on the dashboard. Unfortunately, an alternator replacement isn’t cheap, and it does take some time to fix. You’ll also need a new drive belt, which creates further costs.
For most of us, the summer is when we’ll be heading out in the car more often, including the annual family holiday or visiting friends and relatives across the country. Long journeys are a sure‐fire way to unearth any lurking problems with your tyres. Cracked, ageing rubber may well cope with a journey to the shop and back, but long journeys will intensify the disintegration of the old rubber.
Poor car maintenance and preparation leads to more frequent blowouts; in fact, the leading cause for car accidents in 2017 on UK roads was poor tyre maintenance. Tyres should always be inspected before a long journey, particularly if you’re towing trailers or caravans.
Visually inspecting your tyres will highlight tread‐depth, cracks, and inconsistencies in the rubber. If you regularly look at tyre pressures and you notice that one tyre is lower on pressure than the others, there’s a good chance that you’ve either got a slow puncture or a faulty valve. Either way, it will need to be replaced.
Also, don’t forget to increase your tyre pressure to the right PSI if you’re driving with heavy loads, such as luggage and more people than usual. You’ll be able to find the correct PSI level for your tyres on the inside of the doorframe.
Punctures with No Spare
A puncture can occur at any time, but the chance of this happening increases when covering more miles, on a greater variety of road surfaces and with heavier loads than average since this puts a greater strain on the rubber of the tyre.
These days newer cars don’t come with spare tyres, and for many motorists the first time they actually realise this is when they open the boot to be greeted by a tyre repair kit instead. These kits can be useful if you’ve experienced a minor puncture, but if the tyre has been ripped, torn, or completely shredded, puncture repair will be no use to you.
The solution to this one is pretty simple – ensure that you have a spare tyre in your vehicle before you start your journey. Having said that, it’s still worth getting familiar with a tyre puncture repair kit just in case.
Your clutch takes a real hammering in the summer months. Busy roads mean slower‐moving traffic, and if you’re driving on roads that aren’t familiar to you in remote locations, this can really start to take its toll. However, a big cause of clutch failure is towing. If you’re towing an incorrectly loaded caravan, you’ll worsen any existing issues. Combining pre‐existing clutch problems, a heavy caravan, and a hilly area is just asking for trouble.
Usually, clutches don’t just fail; there’s typically some signs of wear before this happens. These can include:
- Heavy pedal
- Gritty pedal
- High biting point
- Frequent gear slips
If you are towing, you must make sure that your car is capable of towing the weight of the caravan. However, if you have any doubts or concerns, and you’ve spotted one or more of the warning signs above, it’s essential to get your car booked into a professional as soon as you can. Although this can sometimes be expensive, car maintenance is far better and much less stressful than a complete failure in unfamiliar surroundings.
What Else Should You Consider?
There are a few other things you may wish to consider checking throughout the summer months, to help keep your car in good condition, such as:
- Cooling System Checks – a leaking cooling system or an ineffective cooling fan could mean that your vehicle may overheat, causing damage to the engine.
- Electric Cooling Fan – this is designed to run only when necessary, so it’s worth having this looked at the make sure it’s functioning correctly.
- Examine the Jack and Wheel Brace – do this to make sure they are in good working order. If locking wheel nuts are fitted, make sure the locking key is left out of sight within the vehicle. It may also be a good idea to practice changing your tyres, or at least familiarising yourself with the repair kit.
- Dashboard Warning Lights – make sure these are operating as they should, if not, consult your handbook or local dealer.
What Not to Worry About
The heat of summer is capable of making your car act in ways that it perhaps would typically not do, but don’t take this as an indication that a severe issue is afoot.
Things not to worry about, include:
- Water Pooling Under the Car – this is normally caused by condensed air coming from your air conditioning.
- Smoke in the Air Vents – Unless the smoke is visibly smoggy and acrid, this is just water vapour produced by the air conditioning that hasn’t yet been condensed.
- Rumbling from the Engine After Turning Off the Ignition – This is just the cooling fan turning on to cool around the engine.
- Lethargic Power Application – Like us humans, cars are also prone to being a little sluggish in the heat; this is because the air is warmer and less dense, thereby giving the engine‐less get‐up‐and‐go.
For more blogs on motoring and car maintenance, be sure to read:
- Top 10 Things To Consider When Buying A Classic Car
- How To Sell Your Car Online
- Hybrid Cars: The Pros and Cons