Summer may be a time for cookouts, pool parties, and trips to the beach but while the family is looking forward to the hot weather - your car most likely dreads it.
We often think winter is the real enemy of cars with the season's freezing temperatures, snow, ice, and of course, the heavy use of salt and sand in colder regions to keep slippery roads in check.
But the warmer season also take its toll as both your car paint and mechanicals bake under the glaring sun and heat. Your car's interior, much like a greenhouse, also roasts. On a 90 degree day, your car's interior can reach in excess of 140 degrees in an hour's time.
Proper maintenance and care keeps your car or truck paint from fading and pealing early and prevents your seats and dashboard from cracking. Here's how to protect your car from the summer sun and heat.
Protecting your car's exterior from sun and warm temperatures
The first step is to make sure you wash your car's exterior frequently in a shady spot outside your home. A good exterior wash cleans off pollution, road oils and grime. Never use dish detergent or harsh soap, instead use cleaning products, including a soft cotton cloth, especially made for vehicles. If you have stubborn road tar or even dead bugs stuck on the exterior, you may require some special removal products. Dry the car thoroughly with a soft cloth or towel to remove minerals and prevent water spots.
Now wax. While waxing can be a bit of a chore, it's a much easier task with an inexpensive buffing machine. The wax prevents a barrier between your car's paint and the elements, both natural and unnatural. It'll actually make it easier to wash the next time as it helps prevent grease and tar from locking in place.
If you have a convertible top, it will require some extra maintenance. Care of your top is different for a canvas/cloth top versus a vinyl top, according to AutoGeek.net. There are different products available for both types of tops, so read the product manufacturer's directions and follow those steps. Fortunately, the basic steps are pretty simple:
Vacuum the top to remove particles and then rinse off the top with water.
Apply the fabric or vinyl cleaner and gently scrub using a soft to medium bristle brush. Thoroughly rinse off the material when done.
Blot the top with an absorbing towel and let it dry thoroughly. Make sure the car remains out of the sun.
Apply vinyl or canvas/cloth protectant per manufacturer's directions. Let completely dry.
If you have a clear vinyl window in the back, treat the windows with a cleaner and protectant designed specifically for it.
How to protect the interior of your car from summer heat damage
Your car's interior also takes a pretty good beating in the summer.
Like the exterior, you'll want to keep the interior clean and protected. Use auto interior cleaning products designed for the type of interior you have: typically leather, vinyl or cloth. Be sure to vacuum the rugs, dashboard and the nooks and crannies.
Once the interior is dry, use protectant or conditioner on the surfaces (again, ensuring you've bought the right product to match the type of interior). This coating will also put a barrier between the interior and damaging heat and sun.
While these may seem like common sense approaches, here are some additional ways to minimize interior heat damage:
Whenever possible, garage your car or park in the shade. If you must park in the sun, try to have the rear of the car facing the sun as to minimize UV damage to your dashboard. If you're parked in a low crime area, consider leaving the windows and sun roof partially open to reduce heat buildup.
Consider buying or installing tinted windows.
Use a reflectorized panel in your windshield when you park. This not only keeps the temperature down but prevents UV damage.
Engines, tires and other basic summer maintenance
Whether you're handy or rely on a mechanic, prepping your car for the heat is as important as it is to winterize it. Before the dog days of summer begin, check your cooling system to be sure your belts and hoses are not cracked and in good shape. Check that your cooling level and transmission fluid is where it should be.
Keeping on top of oil changes is especially important as your engine runs hotter as the mercury climbs. Summer is also a time for more dust and pollen in the air so have your air filter checked regularly and replaced if needed. If it doesn't seem like your air conditioning is cranking away like it should, that may require an inspection and service too.
Like the rest of your car, make sure your tires and rims are cleaned and washed thoroughly with the right products. Tires also require some maintenance. Make sure your tires are at the right pressure. Underinflated tires run hotter as there is more friction with the pavement.