Depending on where you live in the world, seasonal changes throughout the years can range from mild to wild. In the Northern Hemisphere, temperatures can range as low as -20 °F (-29 °C), in the winter, to as high as 100 °F (38 °C), in the summer, in the same region! North American Vermont is said to have two seasons, mud and snow, thanks to copious amounts of precipitation and heavy forest cover. On the other hand, Kenya, like most African countries, essentially has only two seasons, dry and wet.
No matter what season, however, each presents special challenges for driver and vehicle, alike. Different seasons can tax your engine, electrical system, tires, brakes, and driver, not to mention paint and glass, in different ways. Here are some tips to prepare your vehicle for whatever conditions you may face, no matter what season.
Hot and Dry Season
The cooling system is especially critical as ambient temperatures increase, so a full inspection of this system should be performed before the weather starts to heat up. A proper mix of coolant and water, generally 50% coolant and 50% water, increases the boiling point of the mixture, which prevents runaway overheating. Likewise, the pressure cap further increases the boiling point. Make sure the pressure cap is functional and that there are no coolant leaks from the radiator, hoses, pipes, or engine. Coolant hoses that are swollen or weakened should be replaced immediately, as high summer pressures can cause them to blow out. Make sure electric fans are functional and that the belts for belt-driven fans are not slipping.
In preparation for hot-weather driving, you should have a few emergency repair items in your trunk. Carry an extra gallon each of water and coolant, a funnel, and some basic hand tools. A basic hose repair kit can be helpful, and should include short sections of plastic pipe, in various diameters, four hose clamps, and a utility knife. Better yet, if you have the space, you can carry extra hoses and a pressure cap. Stop-leak solutions, however, are not recommended, except in extreme emergency situations, as they typically cause more problems than they solve. A pair of pliers can pinch off a leak in one of the radiator cross-tubes, for example, but a professional repair or replacement will restore full performance.
If your car begins overheating while driving, open the windows, turn the heater on full, and turn off the air conditioner. This should help to release some of the extra heat being generated in the engine. If the temperature gauge approaches the red “overheat” range, or you see steam coming from under the hood, pull the car over immediately and shut off the engine. Wait for the engine to cool off before attempting to check the cooling system, especially the pressure cap. If you pull the pressure cap while the engine is overheating, the remaining coolant can vaporize instantly and explode in your face, leading to possible burns. Once the car cools off, you can add coolant or water and attempt to make any repairs.
Dry season typically means dust, and one critical element protects your engine from dust, the air filter. Before dry season comes, clean or replace your air filter with a good quality filter. Genuine filters, that is, those that come from the automaker, are usually sufficient, but there are good quality aftermarket air filters are well. Consider installing a foam pre-filter to catch dust before it gets into the air filter itself. Depending on how much dust you encounter, you may need to clean the filters as often as every week to maintain good engine performance.
Cool and Wet Season
To make sure you can see properly in all conditions, make sure your windshield washer system and wipers are operating properly. Wipers should clean the windshield without chattering or streaking, and washers should be strong enough to hit a good portion of the windshield. Wiper blades should be replaced every six months or so, as exposure to the sun deteriorates the rubber. Use a quality washer fluid, having a small amount of soap or alcohol, which helps to dissolve insect parts and break up road grime.
To keep rust at bay, before rainy season arrives, have your car washed and waxed. This will prevent mud from sticking to your car and help to prevent rust. Consider having an undercoating applied to the underbody and frame to prevent rust. During the wet season, make sure you wash your car regularly, especially underneath, where mud collects in wheel wells, fenders, and frame sections. Mud, in turn, holds moisture, which accelerates corrosion.
Tires in Every Season
Perhaps the most important consideration, when it comes to your vehicle and the wet season, is the condition of your tires. On dry pavement, even balding tires, those with less than 2 mm tread depth remaining, still provide halfway decent traction. In the rain and mud, however, those same tires can’t maintain traction. You see, the purpose of the tread is to maintain contact with a good surface. Water and mud squish between the treads, but if there isn’t sufficient tread depth, the tire ends up floating over the top.
At low speeds, you may spin tires and not be able to steer reliably. Hitting a puddle or wet stretch of road at high speed, may cause your tires to lose contact with the road altogether, also called hydroplaning, and you can lose control of your vehicle. Make sure, before wet season arrives, that your tires have at least 3 mm tread depth to improve wet traction. If you regularly drive in muddy conditions, make sure you have at least 6 mm tread depth remaining.
Finally, because tires normally lose pressure, not only over time, but also due to temperature drop, make sure your tires are always at the proper pressure. Typically, tire pressure information is located on the driver’s door jamb or door itself. If not there, it will definitely be in the owner’s manual. When the tires are “cold,” that is, first thing in the morning or at least three hours since being driven, check and adjust tires to the pressure indicated by the manual.
You should always carry a basic tire patch kit and portable air compressor in your emergency trunk kit, as well as make sure your spare tire and tire-changing tools are in good condition.
Safe Driving to You!
No matter what the season, keeping these few tips in mind will make for an enjoyable driving experience. Keeping your car in proper repair is safer, as well. “Safe driving to you!” from your friends at BeForward, no matter what the season.