Maintaining cars can help increase gas mileage in summerWritten by Mary Petrides | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Keeping your car in good shape can help increase gas mileage in warmer months. In the summer months it’s especially important to check fluids, belts and hoses and keep an eye on tires.
“Really, summertime is hard on cars just like winter is,” said Dave Johnson, manager and owner of Quality Mechanic On Duty. “Extremities cause trouble, whether it’s cold or hot.”
Gary Pontious, owner of Toledo Auto Care, named five fluids car owners can check without the aid of a mechanic.
Brake fluid and power steering fluid should be clean and clear, he said. Transmission fluid should be bright red.
“If you put up your nose and smell it, it should not smell burnt at all,” he said. If it’s dark brown or smells burned, or if it’s been 35,000 miles, transmission fluid needs to be changed.
For antifreeze, he said, “look for clean and green — or red.” He recommends changing green antifreeze every two years or 35,000 miles and red antifreeze every 50,000 miles.
Car owners should have their oil changed every 3,000 miles or six months. Oil should not be black, but can start taking on a deep brown color.
Car owners can refill these fluids themselves, said Bob Kazmierczak, operations manager for AAA’s Car Care Plus, but it’s important to double-check labels.
“It’s important that [car owners] just know what they’re looking at, and make sure if they’re topping it off to use the correct fluid.”
Pontious said it’s important to check for wear on tires.
“As tires age,” he said, “the ultraviolet rays of the sun dry out and weather the rubber on the side of the tires and you should always check them for weathering and cracking.”
Pontious said the Department of Transportation recommends replacing tires when the tread gets below 4/32 of an inch. Pontious suggested an easy way to measure tread.
“A good way to check that is to take a quarter, and take the head of the president into the tread. If you can see the top of the head, that’s 4/32 of an inch and the tire should be replaced,” he said.
Kazmierczak said tires have about four wear bars running straight across the tire and if any are visible the tire should be replaced.
Bad tire pressure is the biggest cause of tire failure, Kazmierczak said.
Tires with too low of pressure can’t dissipate heat, he said, and overinfl ated tires wear out the tread. Car owners can check their tire pressure with a tire gauge, Kazmierczak said.
Kazmierczak said car owners should expect to pay at least $5 for a tire gauge — cheap gauges give poor readings.
Car owners should check belts and hoses, too.
Johnson said cracking and dry rotting are signs that belts need to be replaced.
Hoses wear from the inside out, Kazmierczak said, so to check for wear, car owners should squeeze them.
“If it’s coming apart, it’ll feel real mushy,” he said. “If it feels real hard, though, it should also be replaced.”
It’s also important to have regular safety inspections, Pontious said. He recommends having an inspection every time car owners have the oil changed, or every 3,000 to 4,000 miles.
Kazmierczak also suggested having the air conditioning checked for leaks and the proper amount of refrigerant. Car owners should have this checked once a year and the beginning of summer is a good time to have it checked.
But if the air conditioning breaks, it’s important to have a backup plan, Johnson said.
“It’s hot this time of year,” he said. “It’s always good to make sure you’ve got a window that goes up and down in case something happens to the air conditioning.”