Tips and tricks on how to prepare your car for summer season
Historically, the hottest day ever in Metro Manila was 38° C on a Friday on April 30, 1915. On that day, the heat index hit 73° C. Under those conditions, a human will likely suffer heat cramps and exhaustion - if exposure continues, a stroke will be imminent.
The heat tolerance of your vehicle is higher than that, but it does not mean immunity from overheating and damage (to components and parts) caused by ridiculously high temperatures. Add the insane level of humidity in the Philippines, which can cause retarded ignition timing, and you have one of a million breakdown recipes.
Only God knows how hot this dry season (yes, PAGASA, we received the memo) will be. Protect yourself and keep car care a close second so you do not end up on the lay-bys waiting for a tow truck in the middle of the day.
If you do not know how or where to begin, that is where we come in. We give the engine a thorough once-over, check parts and components susceptible to heat damage, and our cooldown is the climate control system.
UNDER THE HOOD
Our starting point is under the hood. The car will not run (properly) if something here is amiss, so ensure everything is in tip-top shape by doing the following:
1) Always check vehicle fluids. Coolant and water in the radiator, even battery fluid, will evaporate faster during this time of the year, so always top up when you see levels go down. While you are at it, check the clutch and brake fluid.
2) Change engine oil every 10,000 kilometers or every six months. If you are going for a long drive in the fifth month before an oil change, it would be a good idea to replace it already to ensure your engine performs at its best during the long drive. Engine oil absorbs heat generated by the engine block process, releases some of it in the oil sump, then goes back to the engine much cooler than when it went out. Dirty engine oil goes through the same process, but will not have the same cooling capacity as a fresh batch, so strictly stick to your oil change schedule all the time.
3) Look for small fissures or tiny cracks on the hoses and the tubes leading to and from the radiator. If you see any, replace them because extreme pressure will cause them to burst, and you will lose the fluids necessary to keep your engine at optimum operating temperature.
4) Make sure your radiator cap is not rusty because you need the spring on its plunger functioning properly to regulate and release pressure to prevent the hoses from bursting.
5) A busted radiator thermostat will not function properly, thus, preventing water/coolant from going to the radiator to release the heat it absorbed from the engine.
6) Check if the fan motors are functioning. It can get as hot as 105° C under the hood of a running car during the summer. Your engine will need all the help it can get.
CHECK YOUR RUBBER
A good deal of parts that either seal your vehicle from the elements or cushion its metal-on-metal connections is rubber. As such, they are prone to deterioration from too much heat exposure. These are what you need to check:
1) Tires are its only connection to the road. With the surface temperature heating up to as much as 150° C during midday, you need good tires to maintain traction during those sizzling hot days. Check for tread using a ruler to ensure you have at least two millimeters of depth remaining. Tires must always have the correct tire pressure, measured by how much PSI (pounds per square inch) it has. Underinflated tires waste fuel, while overinflated tires lose traction. Check the spare tire also has the proper amount of pressure.
2) Drive belts have markings that fade when worn. If the one on the alternator and compressor breaks, the cooling system will fail. So will all your auxiliary systems, including the steering pump, because the alternator is not generating power. Older cars have timing belts. Check that too. If it snaps, you are not moving an inch. Newer cars use the more durable timing chain that can go for at least 100,000 kilometers.
3) Lastly, check the weatherstripping. These are the seals around the doors, windows, windshield, and even the trunk or tailgate. Replace them when you see cracking or peeling.
CHECK YOUR HVAC
Now that the car is working properly, time to get comfy. That is not happening with a busted A/C. Follow this five-step process to check for problems:
Step 1 - Switch on the blowers and run them from the lowest to mid, up to the highest setting. Put your hand over every vent to feel the air coming out of each is of equal level on every blower setting. If it is not, they could be obstructions along the way. Have it checked by a technician. If there is even the faintest whiff of something foul, get it checked for bacteria or molds.
Step 2 - The cabin air filters have to be changed yearly (I would do it before the start of every summer). Pollen and dirt, coupled with the moisture there, make it a breeding ground for bacteria and other airborne diseases.
Step 3 - Have your mechanic check the rubber seals and hoses for cracks or leaks to ensure no Freon seeps out because the lesser you have, the hotter it gets. Also, check that it always has the correct amount of refrigerant.
Step 4 - Clean the AC condenser by blasting it with water until dirt and debris have been cleared. It will help your system get cool much faster. If you do not have a high-pressure washer, bring it to your nearest car wash.
Step 5 - Vacuum-clean the carpet and all mats, preferably every week. It ensures there will be very little dirt and dust for the AC system to suck in, which will help cool the cabin.
Nobody said auto maintenance was easy (or cheap). It never was and will never be, but that does not mean you should skip or scrimp on it. Drive it to the dealership, and they will do all of the above for you. Some will even offer to pick it up from your office or residence so you do not have to skip work or get off the couch. If you are on a budget, ask friends about their recommended shops for better peace of mind.
If you are the DIY type, you can do some of these (probably all if you are really hardcore) alone if you have the necessary equipment.
In this sweltering heat, you wouldn't want to find yourself riding on the back of a tricycle looking for spare parts because your car broke down. Tick all the boxes above and enjoy a hassle-free, 'cool' dry season of 2023.