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Summer car care and safety tips every driver should know

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

Whether you’re heading to the grocery store or out for a vacation, summer weather can put the brakes on a road trip in your car. To be prepared for summertime hazards, every car owner should follow some simple summer car care tips.

These safety tips are more critical now than ever, when the coronavirus pandemic may mean that getting behind the wheel is your only way to get around or travel long distances.

What are the main summer driving hazards?

Drivers face many obstacles when they’re on the road during summer. These include extreme heat, flash floods, high winds and hailstorms. In some parts of the U.S., animals (such as raccoons and deer) may be more active and hazardous for motorists to avoid.

10 car care tips for safe summer driving

Here are ten ways you can help ensure your car gets you to your destination safely during the summer months.

1. Have your car inspected by a mechanic. This tip is particularly important if you’re planning a long road trip. A mechanic can spot any problems that need to be repaired, helping you avoid an unnecessary breakdown.

2. Make sure your battery has enough charge. Summertime heat can run down your battery. Ensure the fluid levels are high enough and that your battery’s terminals and clamps have not corroded. If you see signs of wear, it might be time to replace it.

3. Examine your cooling system. Your car’s coolant, known as antifreeze, may need to be flushed or topped off to a recommended level to prevent your engine from overheating. Driving in the summer with a broken air-conditioning system can be miserable.

4. Properly inflate your tires. Underinflated tires can drag down your gas mileage and even cause a blowout. Don’t forget to check the status of your spare tire, since you might need it in an emergency.

5. Watch the fluid levels. The right amount of fluids for your engine, transmission, brakes, power steering, cooling system and windshield wipers help your car run smoothly. Be sure to check them before taking a long summer road trip.

6. Schedule a brake check. The brakes are one of your car’s most important safety features. Whether you’re navigating stop-and-go traffic, winding along a mountain road or driving on a slick street, your brakes must be in top condition. Many auto repair shops offer free brake checks that can detect problems.

7. Look at the lights. Test your car’s headlights and taillights to see if they’re operating correctly before starting a long-distance road trip.

8. Assemble an emergency kit. You never know when disaster might strike. That’s why it’s smart to equip your car with an emergency kit that includes plenty of water, non-perishable food, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, road flares or an emergency beacon, essential tools and first-aid supplies.

9. Monitor the gas gauge. Be aware of how much gas you’ve got so you don’t run out. Consider bringing an extra container of gas if you plan to drive through sparsely populated areas.

10. Replace your windshield wipers. If you get caught in a downpour, you need good wipers to improve your visibility. Faulty wipers can make it difficult to see the road and potential hazards ahead. Make sure to replace any worn-out wipers during the summer.

How can I drive safely during the summer?

More road trips happen during the summer than at any other time of the year. Young drivers also tend to drive more when school’s out.

Use these tips to be a safe summer driver:

  • Before you get behind the wheel, check the weather forecast, road conditions and traffic conditions. 
  • Take your time and don’t rush to your destination, which could result in a traffic ticket or accident.
  • Stick to the speed limit and follow all traffic rules. 
  • Map out your route using your car’s or smartphone’s GPS functions before you start driving. 
  • Stay alert by getting plenty of rest before a long road trip. 
  • Pull off the road to take a break, get a snack or take a short walk if you feel tired while you’re driving. 
  • Never drive without wearing a seatbelt, and never travel without your passengers buckling up or being secured in child safety seats. 
  • Don’t drive drunk or drugged. 
  • Don’t drive while texting or talking on your phone. 
  • Watch out for bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. 
  • Take your sunglasses to reduce glare when you’re behind the wheel. 
  • Wear sturdy shoes that don’t have the potential to get stuck under the brake or gas pedal.

What should I know about cars and coronavirus?

The coronavirus pandemic gives motorists another safety issue to consider. Here are some recommendations for keeping your car virus-free:

  • Avoid dine-in or drive-through restaurants when you’re on the road by packing snacks or small meals. 
  • Follow hygiene recommendations such as wearing face coverings and using hand sanitizer. 
  • Do your hotel homework by reading online reviews and other information about hotels’ coronavirus safety protocols. 
  • Clean the interior of your car with disinfectant wipes, high-alcohol-content solutions or soap and water. 
  • Wipe down high-touch surfaces in your vehicle, such as the steering wheel, door handles, grab handles, shift lever, buttons, touchscreens, signal controls, armrests, seat adjusters, cupholders and air conditioner vents.

Laura Adams

Laura is a frequent media source and has been featured on most major news outlets including ABC, Bloomberg, CBS, FOX, NBC, NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, USA Today, U.S. News, Consumer Reports, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fortune, Kiplinger’s, Marketplace, Money, MSN, and many other broadcast, print, and online outlets. Laura’s mission is to empower consumers to live richer lives through her writing, podcasting, spokesperson, and advocacy work. Millions of readers and listeners benefit from her practical financial advice. Laura earned an MBA from the University of Florida. She and her husband reside in Vero Beach, Florida. Connect with her and learn more at LauraDAdams.com.

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