5 tips for summer car maintenance

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Summer is almost here. Road trips, vacations, and outdoor fun might be at the top of your warm-weather wish list. But something that may not be on your road trip planner is prepping your vehicle for the travel that often comes with this time of year.

Safety is important to us at Root, and preparing your vehicle for summer can help to ensure you and your car stay in healthy shape throughout the season. Helping our members save money is also important—regular maintenance of your car can prolong its life. And the small effort now—before you take a road trip—can keep your cheap vacation exactly that.

As you’re planning your fun, keep these money-saving tips for summer car maintenance in mind.

  1. Take extra care under the hood.
  2. Refresh your car’s exterior.
  3. Invest time in your car’s interior.
  4. Assemble a summer auto emergency kit.
  5. Get the right car insurance coverage.

Car with an open hood

1. Take extra care under the hood.

Overheating is a main cause of vehicle breakdowns in the summer. Hydration is important for us in the heat just like it is under the hood of your car. So there are things to pay attention to when you pop the hood. Either take your car to a trustworthy mechanic (here’s how to choose an auto repair or body shop), or DIY if you’re trying to save money and have the proper tools.

An automotive technician should flush and refill your car’s cooling system every 100,000 miles and check the condition of clamps, hoses, and drive belts. You can periodically check the levels and condition of the antifreeze (also called coolant) yourself. A 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze is usually recommended. It’s relatively cheap, but it can be very expensive later if ignored for too long.

Pro tip: If your car is overheating, try turning on your heater. It may not seem like common sense, but it actually provides air flow through the engine to cool it off. This is only for emergencies and to get you to a repair shop.

The cooling system should be your primary focus, but don’t forget to change your oil and oil filter even more frequently in the summer if you’re driving more often or longer distances than normal—or if you’re towing a trailer. Check what’s recommended in your car’s owner manual for oil change frequency. And top off your wiper fluid while you’re at it.

Finally, don’t forget about your air conditioning, brakes, and battery. It’s best if a professional checks these. Most auto shops offer free battery testing, so you can save money there.

Car tire getting pumped up

2. Refresh your car’s exterior.

Sprucing up your car for summer goes way beyond looks. Checking and replacing parts will help to prevent accidents and giant expenses mid road trip. At least scope out the condition of your car’s vital exterior parts before hitting the road for your weekend getaway.

Check your tire pressure and tire wear. There’s often no warning of a tire blowout on the highway, so make sure your tires have at least 35 psi. Tire gauges are cheap or offered for free use at gas stations. Follow the coin test to check the wear bar on the rubber of your tires, too. Most modern cars also have built-in tire pressure sensors, so check the dash for any indicator lights. And don’t forget to check that the spare has ample air, too.

Examine your vehicle’s headlights and taillights. Make sure the bulbs are bright, and clean the lenses to a new shine. Replace your windshield wipers every 6 months (or before that if there’s a tear). Buying them online or at a low-cost retail shop can save you money since there’s usually a large markup at mechanic shops. You can also replace the blades yourself. Wiper blades are usually replaced in pairs, but make sure you get the right size and clip style.

Try to keep your car out of direct sunlight in the summer. It will keep the inside cooler when you get back in and will generally protect the car itself.

Car getting vacuumed

3. Invest time in your car’s interior.

If you didn’t already thoroughly clean your car during spring cleaning, summer is the time. Use a shop-vac or vacuum at a car wash to make sure no old food is hiding under the seats. The hot sun will grow unwanted surprises.

Wipe down all surfaces and use glass cleaner on the windows for better visibility. You can buy special dashboard cleaners or protectant wipes, but at least use mild soap and water with a soft microfiber cloth. Toothbrushes can come in handy for crevices, too.

If your car has a leather interior, consider prolonging your car’s value with leather conditioner. Most car windows protect the surface from serious sun damage, but over time, the leather dries out and cracks or splits. It’s pricey to fix, so periodic wipedowns with the right product is a good investment.

Use a sun shield when you park your car in the sun. It keeps the car cooler and helps to protect the interior.

Auto emergency kit

4. Assemble a summer auto emergency kit.

Your best road trip could turn into an epic fail if you’re stranded without the right supplies. Here are some suggestions of items to include in your summer car kit.

  • Water (in heat resistant/BPA-free containers)
  • Nonperishable (and non-meltable) snacks
  • Set of tools, or at least a multi-tool, and a quality knife
  • First aid kit and vital medications
  • Flashlight with batteries (and extra) stored separately
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Orange warning triangles and flares
  • Blanket
  • Extra antifreeze
  • Jumper cables
  • Map (a paper one in case your phone dies or you don’t have service)
  • Portable air compressor
  • Sunglasses

Root car insurance app

5. Get the right car insurance coverage.

It’s good to periodically check your auto insurance coverage types and levels to remind yourself what you actually carry. Many people think they have higher levels than they do and then are unpleasantly surprised when their deductible is outrageously high. (A deductible is the amount of money you pay toward repairs before your insurance pays for the rest.)

If you’re planning a long road trip or will be driving more often than usual, consider adding more coverage to your plan. This could mean adding coverage types like Collision in case you cause an accident or just lowering your deductible for your required coverages. Your monthly (or biannual) rate will likely increase some, but if you get into an accident, the amount you pay upfront (or in total) will be less. (Learn more about what coverage you need for your situation.)

Root Insurance makes it easy to customize the coverage you need—for summer and all year-round. Add what you want, and leave off what you don’t. Instantly see how much it will cost for each coverage in the Root app. Plus, Roadside Assistance is included in every policy, so your summer road trip can go smoothly. (Here are easy tips to switch insurance companies.) See how much you can save with a free car insurance quote. Good drivers save up to 52%.

Here’s to a great and safe summer.

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