Post-Summer Inspections Improve Vehicle Safety, Performance
Vehicle’s maintenance becomes even more important as the seasons change.
As cool days arrive in September, the condition of your car and the roads you’ll be driving on changes. Preventative maintenance preceded by a vehicle inspection will keep your car from requiring costly repairs in the future.
Tony Molla, vice president of Automotive Service Association, believes in the importance of automotive inspections, especially with summer looking for the exit and autumn knocking at the door. He insists that you should do two inspections every year without exception. The first thing he suggests is to give your car a visual inspection, the same way a pilot does before taking to the sky.
First, Molla suggests doing a visual inspection with your mechanic present, if possible.
“Walk around the car and check out the lights and wiper shields to make sure they’re operable and to make certain there is no damage to the exterior of the vehicle.
“Check out all of the windows for cracks and chips and test all of your lights. By washing your vehicle, you can spot things you might have missed otherwise.”
Sometimes your car will give you a warning by emitting strange smells, making peculiar noises, or shaking while driving. Other times, it may not give any indication that something is wrong, and that’s why inspections are so important.
You drove a lot during June and August, so now your car is limping into September and it needs an inspection.
“During the summer, most people are harder on their cars, with a lot of highway driving at higher speeds and at high temperatures, Molla said. “Today’s vehicles will perform at a high level for many years (and miles) as long as they are checked regularly.
“Things such as belts, hoses, lights, some electronics, brakes, and other items will wear out, but if you keep your fluids (oil, transmission, brakes) at the right levels and change them when needed, your vehicle will run reliably for those long summer journeys and those back-to-school days.”
The main things to include in any mechanical inspection are oil checks and changes; battery checks; tire checks; brake Inspections; timing belt Inspections; heating and cooling system checks, and basic tune-ups. Visiting your mechanic twice annually helps to establish a relationship and find potential issues before them become expensive problems, Molla explained.
Molla cited a few items that are often missed during an automotive inspection — things you should mention to your mechanic prior to the service.
“Check that spare tire and make sure it’s not flat,” he said. “Windshield wipers often only get checked when it rains, a big mistake. Heat kills batteries, so make sure they are part of any inspection.
“If your car is older than 10 years (national average is 12 years) you will also need to get a more complete inspection, possibly including things such as radiator flushes and brake adjustments.”
Some of the traditional inspection items for late summer and early fall:
- Look for unusual and extensive tire tread wear. Hot summer roads can wear tire tread quickly. Inspect for uneven wear, bald spots, bulges, sidewall damage and divots.
- Test the electrical capacity of your vehicle battery. Heat takes a toll on batteries, and they can go bad literally overnight with the arrival of cool weather.
- Top off fluids such as coolant/antifreeze and windshield cleaner. These fluids are easy to neglect but critical for safe autumn driving.
- Replace wiper blades before the first rains of autumn to prevent streaking. Ultraviolet rays of summer leach the resins from rubber and can make older blades brittle and cracked.
List of inspection items that are often overlooked:
- Replace exterior bulbs. All Bulbs dim slowly over time, and you may not even notice they no longer provide bright light. New bulbs are an inexpensive way to make sure other drivers see your vehicle. Be sure to check the following:
1. License plate lights
2. Brake lights
4. Turn signal lights
5. Back-up lights
- Tighten the emergency (parking) brake. A loose parking brake requires immediate attention.
- Has your vehicle horn become raspy or weak? It may be time to replace the speaker.
- Do your seat belts (front and back) clasp firmly? Are there any tears in the straps?
- What is the level of the power steering fluid?
- Check the PCV valve, which helps your engine burn cleanly. A clogged PCV valve can lower fuel economy, make your vehicle engine idle poorly and possibly leak oil.
- Repair windshield cracks and chips before they are too large to fix and your vehicle requires a windshield replacement.