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Heat Check: How to Avoid Summer Breakdowns

By Craig Moy

It’s easy to be complacent about car care in the summer. The weather’s brighter and the roads are clearer, so the driving’s better. And you’re probably busier; scheduling preventative maintenance isn’t likely top-of-mind. But the season can be tough on your vehicle. Be aware of these risks for summer breakdowns to ensure your ride remains road-trip ready.

A BATTERY GONE BUST
We know winter is hard on car batteries, but summer can mean trouble too. “Heat speeds up the evaporation of the chemicals inside your battery,” says Ryan Lemont, fleet operations manager at AMA. And evaporation can corrode the battery’s metal terminals and connections, which leads to degraded performance. Simple driving can also have a negative impact: Short trips don’t give the battery enough time to recharge. Problems like these are exacerbated if your battery is at or nearing the end of its typical three- to five-year lifespan. Think your battery is on its last legs? Visit ama.ab.ca/CAABatteryService to learn how AMA can test or replace it.

FLUIDS FOLLY
Vehicle fluids—like transmission, power steering and brake fluids, and motor oil—lubricate the movement of metal parts and carry heat away from them. “But fluids break down over time,” says Ted Zylstra, owner of Braeside Auto, an Approved Auto Repair Services (AARS) facility in Calgary. “They can become contaminated with water, dirt or metal shavings from engine components.” This reduces the fluids’ cooling effect, which increases your chance of car trouble. Take your vehicle for regular maintenance at an AARS shop: Your mechanic can ensure fluids are topped up, and can flush out and replace them per the manufacturer’s recommended schedule.

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NOT COOL TO BE HOT
As with fluids, it’s important to properly maintain your engine’s overall cooling system. “Generally speaking, it should be fully flushed at least once every three years,” Zylstra says. Between flushes, your AARS technician can check coolant levels and top them up if necessary. The system’s rubber hoses are also susceptible to heat-related deterioration. A good mechanic will inspect these components for cracking, soft spots or other signs of poor condition as part of a regular maintenance check on your vehicle.

TIRE-PRESSURE PROBLEMS
Swings in temperature are the main culprits of summertime tire trouble. “If you have a cooler morning, but it shoots up to the mid-20s in the afternoon, that’s when you get expansion and contraction of your tires and even the metal of your rims,” AMA’s Lemont says. That could result in air loss—or a blowout due to decreased air pressure. Debris on the road due to summer construction work can also cause problems. To lower the risk of an unexpected flat, periodically check your tire pressure to make sure it’s inflated to the PSI recommended in your vehicle owner’s manual or noted inside the driver’s door.

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TOWING TROUBLE
Planning to haul your camper trailer to the mountains or take your new boat to the lake? Before hooking it up, make sure it doesn’t exceed your vehicle’s maximum towing limit. Towing too much weight can rapidly wear down critical parts like your transmission and brakes. Lemont notes it also impacts safe steering and stopping. Spend time confirming the compatibility of your vehicle and trailer—to keep them in good shape and maintain safety on Alberta roads.

WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED
If your vehicle needs work this summer or beyond, take it to an Approved Auto Repair Services facility in Alberta for top-notch service backed by a one-year warranty. AMA members get a one-year, 20,000-km, Canada-wide warranty on most parts and services.

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