By Marc Follender, Special to the Journal
If you’ve spent any time in Texas, you’ll know fall, winter, and spring are basically three months that precede a nine-month long summer. The weather here is unnervingly unpredictable, and preparing your car for the wet spring and long hot summer ahead is a smart idea. Sadly, it is also one that many people neglect, and can result in vehicle damage as well as financial distress.
A bit about me: I’ve been in love with cars since I first laid a washcloth on my father’s Jaguar at the age of seven. I have since rebuilt engines, modified street rods, and tinkered with just about everything with wheels on it. I went from a lube jockey, changing oil and tires out of high school to running a profitable auto repair shop, and managing a crew of certified technicians. Currently, I serve the community at Goodyear in Belton.
If there is one thing I can say I’ve learned, it’s that there is a rhyme and reason to regular vehicle maintenance, and it’s not just to put money in your mechanic’s pocket, but to save yourself money and headaches in the long term.
With that said, here are a few key recommendations to follow for success:
COOLING SYSTEM. Have your radiator and engine coolant checked for proper levels. Coolant is what circulates throughout your engine to keep it cool. It’s hot out there and your engine needs the proper amount in order to function efficiently. Improper coolant levels or leakage can occur if your rubber hoses or cooling components are old or weak, so be sure to have those double checked as well.
FLUID FLUSHES. I cannot stress this enough. The fluids in your vehicle are like the blood and water in your body. If they are low or contaminated, your car will get very sick! Over time your brake fluid, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, and fuel will begin to get dirty and carry bits and pieces of rubber, plastic, and other parts that erode from within the system, causing irreparable damage. Sadly, most of the regular service mandated by dealerships neglect to include regular fluid flushes in their scheduled maintenance, which is a shame, because you wouldn’t want your physician doing a checkup without looking at your blood, would you?
TIRES. The only thing connecting your vehicle to the road are your tires. They carry a huge load every time you travel. Be sure to check your tire pressure regularly and keep them inflated to the proper PSI. If you’re ever in doubt of how much to add or where they should be, check inside your door jamb and refer to the recommended PSI for your specific vehicle. There are tiny treadwear bars in the grooves of your tires, and when they are even with the tread on your tire, it’s time for a new set!
A/C CHECK. This one is important because it gets very hot here in Texas, folks and you don’t want to wait until its too late and you’re stuck in traffic with no air conditioning. Getting your A/C diagnosed by a professional is your best bet. There are a lot of people out there that want to save a buck or two, so they attempt to refill their A/C refrigerant themselves and often end up overcharging the system, damaging the compressor, and costing themselves more money in repairs. Pay the diagnostic fee and let a certified technician perform your A/C repair. You’ll save yourself time and money and you’ll be rewarded with a proper repair and best of all, a warranty.
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to ask friends and family, and do some internet research first before choosing a reputable auto repair shop. Look for a place with certified mechanics only, that carries a warranty on repairs.
Just remember: Your car is a huge investment and a liability, and you rely on it to get where you’re going, and so do your loved ones. Following proper vehicle maintenance and vigilant preparation will keep you ahead of the game and ready to spring into summer.
Best of luck and drive safely!