Reliable Summer Driving
The heat is on
Summer is a great time of year, with long, hot days and plenty of sunshine. However, this creates numerous difficulties for your car.
For a start, journeys are often longer. Secondly, families on holiday tend to not travel light, so the car is likely to be encumbered with a roof box, and perhaps a trailer or caravan, all of which add weight. Finally, everyone else appears to have the same idea at the same time, so traffic jams are commonplace.
On these days, when you’re feeling hot and bothered, your car gets exactly the same way. That’s why, in the same way that it’s vital to keep yourself hydrated, it’s important to make sure your car’s fluids are topped up and of the right specification for the conditions and the workload. As lubricants become hotter, they become thinner, and so are less able to do the job for which they were designed. And that’s precisely what you don’t need if you’re stuck in a traffic jam on a hot day, because you need your car oil to protect the moving parts from the very instant the car is restarted by the engine stop-start system.
Your car’s cooling system is also put under more pressure in summer. The system works by running the engine’s coolant through the radiator at the front of the car. The moving air generated when the car is in motion (and by the fan at a standstill) passes through the radiator’s core, easing the temperature of the coolant before it’s pumped back into the engine. The problem is that the air required to cool down the coolant is itself at a raised temperature, so is much less effective.
Check up and top up
The four Ps – Preparation Prevents Poor Performance – hold utterly true. It really is worthwhile lifting the bonnet of your car every once in a while, and especially before a long journey, to make sure all the essential fluids are present and at the correct level. Even if you aren’t confident mechanically, simply follow the instructions in your car’s handbook, because it should also be well illustrated, so you need only compare the pictures with your car’s engine bay.
It’s vital that your car’s cooling system is topped up with the right coolant, and the system must only ever be checked when the engine is cold. In most cars the system comprises the radiator and a separate expansion tank with ‘High’ and ‘Low’ marks on the side. If the level is down towards the low end of the scale the system will need to be topped up.
Similarly, if the fluid looks cloudy and rusty in colour, it needs to be changed. In either case, a modern long-life replacement such as Havoline Xtended Life Antifreeze/Coolant will fit the bill nicely. Fluids such as these are formulated to help prevent any corrosion of the engine and ancillaries such as the water pump, and they’re also designed to work effectively no matter what the external temperature might be.
Once the system is topped up, keep a spare sealed container upright in the boot so you can keep the system at the optimum level while away from home.
It’ll be oil right in the end
Engines are designed to burn a tiny bit of oil as they go through day-to-day journeys, so it’s worthwhile checking the dipstick every so often. The best way to do this is to run the engine for about 10 minutes until it’s warmed through, then switch off and allow a few minutes for the oil to settle. Remove the dipstick, wipe it clean, then reinsert it and remove it once again – this is when you’ll get the correct reading.
If it needs to be topped up, check your handbook or go online to find out the grade of oil your car needs, and then it’s always worthwhile buying a high-quality product such as those in the Havoline range. Oils such as Havoline ProDS – are designed to remain at their optimum thickness and efficiency regardless of the temperatures they are required to endure on hot days. Havoline ProDS also contains DepositShield technology to help keep your engine’s internal surfaces clean and work to ensure that the engine is running as efficiently as possible.
However, if you’re taking your car to a hot country, it can be worthwhile checking to see if it’s worth changing your oil – as per the manufacturer’s global requirements – to deal with the higher temperatures. An oil change is not expensive and can save you in the long run.
The black circle at each corner of your car is its only point of contact with the road and can have a huge effect on efficiency. It’s vital that they’re kept at the right pressure, because an underinflated tyre requires much more force to roll. If you’re in any doubt, try pushing a wheelbarrow with a flat tyre.
Pumping up your tyres to the right level will make them roll more easily, placing much less strain on the engine and gearbox of your car. You’ll use a whole load less fuel, too.
The route less travelled
Again, planning is key. Study the route to your destination well beforehand, and check for obvious trouble spots and bottlenecks. Then why not alter the route slightly to avoid them? You are, after all, on holiday, so why not do a bit of sightseeing along the way. Your car will thank you for staying on the move.
That said, traffic jams due to incidents are often unavoidable, but they needn’t ruin your day. Most sat-nav systems can tell you how long the jam is, and your expected delay, and they can also reroute you around the problem.
The checks listed here really are easy to perform, and only take a few minutes. They’ll also mean your car’s running as well as it possibly can, saving you money in the process. Surely it’s better that than kicking yourself repeatedly as you wait for the breakdown service to arrive?