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Get your car in shape for summer heat and rain

The onset of summer is a good time to make sure your car is in good working order for safety and fuel-conservation, and summer weather poses a special challenge for drivers. The heat and rain mean you have to stay on top of specific items, including tires, wiper blades and air-conditioning systems. Here are tips tailored to Florida readers from

Tires: Make sure tires have plenty of tread (⅛ inch) so you don't lose traction in a sudden shower or thunderstorm. The high summer temperatures affect tire pressure and rubber construction. As air temperature rises, so can tire pressure. Keep tires inflated properly by checking your vehicle owner's manual or the specification sticker on the door jamb. Underinflated tires increase roll resistance which, in turn, generates heat. Excessive heat can cause rubber fatigue and tread separation. Increased tire roll resistance also decreases your vehicle's gas mileage. To avoid unexpected tire failure, inspect your tires at every gasoline fill-up, especially during the summer months. Keeping tires inflated to the proper pressure can improve gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent. And replacing your tires with efficient "low rolling resistance" tires could save up to 6 percent on gas bills.

Battery and cables: Heat is the leading cause of battery failure, so be on alert. Heat causes the water to evaporate in the electrolyte and promotes internal corrosion of the positive plates. Adding distilled water more frequently may be necessary for batteries that are not sealed. Check the battery cable connections at every oil change and clean and tighten them when necessary to avoid a variety of electrical problems. If the battery is older than four years, it may be time to replace it.

Belts and hoses: Hot weather can reduce the life expectancy of belts and hoses, so make sure yours are in good shape. Examine belts for cracks, nicks, frays and glazing on the sides. A glazed belt, along with squealing or chirping sounds, could mean improper belt tension. When the motor is cool, squeeze the radiator hoses to check the rubber for soft or brittle spots. Hoses in good condition will be firm and flexible.

Air-conditioning: A properly air-conditioned car is a major convenience. If the air coming from the vents air isn't cold, chances are the refrigerant may be low due to a leak in the system. Have a certified technician repair the problem.

Windshield wipers and spray nozzles: Summer rains are commonplace, which is why it is so important to replace wipers that are cracked or worn. Also, check spray nozzles for proper aim. If the nozzles are clogged, clean them with a needle. Use windshield washer fluid in the tank to prevent corrosion and remove stubborn dirt, grime and insects from your windshield. If bugs are bombarding your windshield, carry a squeegee with a scrubber to help remove the splattered bugs and maximize visibility.

Get your car in shape for summer heat and rain 06/28/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 4:30am]
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