Cars are amazing machines since they provide freedom and comfortable transport as well as are capable of moving hundreds of miles with just a tank of gasoline. However, it is important to take note that your car could encounter some problems. For example, it could suddenly be broken down when you are heading away with family over the school holidays or are just driving your daily commute, etc. Breaking down is absolutely never any driver’s idea of fun, both summer and winter weather raise the stakes. Good news is that many a car breakdown could be avoided if you take a few simple checks. This article will discuss in details how to avoid car breakdown, both in summer and winter.
How to avoid car breakdown in summer
Hot summer months will put a lot more strain on your car than what you could perhaps realize, and the last thing you want is to suffer an untimely breakdown on road during the midday sun. While it is not always obvious if something is wrong with your car, should you notice anything unusual.
To reduce risks of breakdown, please regular check battery, tires, oil level, water level, washer fluid, air filter and electrical system. In addition, try to perform whatever checks you need to as soon, and as frequently, as you can.
1. Check the battery
Batteries can be susceptible to heat, especially when they are more than two years old. The good news is that they generally come with either a six or 12 month warranty when bought new.
You will know if your battery is starting to weaken when you observe that your car is difficult to start. That means that if you notice any unusual delays then you must replace the battery (or claim warranty if you have it) as soon as possible.
Generally, a battery will not fail mid-journey as it is constantly being charged by the alternator – it is at the start of a journey where the risk is greatest.
FRIENDLY REMIND: You can prolong the life of your battery by not leaving the ignition on (key turned without the engine running) while waiting at a petrol station or outside shops, and by remembering to turn your lights off when you park up. You should also turn the air conditioning off completely when you stop the car, since starting the engine with air-con switched on will cause strain on the starter.
2. Check tire tread and pressure
Tires are one of the most important parts of your car to look after. So if you ignore its importance you will have to get bad consequences. A puncture, or worse still, a blow-out, can be exceptionally dangerous.
Check your tires frequently for cracks and uneven wear. The depth of the tread should ideally be no less than 5mm but 2mm is the legal minimum.
You should check your tire pressure every week; this is free and easy at petrol stations all across the country. You must know what pressures to set the tires as they vary from car to car - you will need to consult your car manual. A rule of thumb is about 33 PSI in each.
If you are towing a trailer, or indeed have a heavy load to carry, then you should increase the pressure by 5 PSI in each tire (consult your car’s manual for accurate figures).
Always check the pressure in your spare tire before any long journey. There is nothing more frustrating than changing a tire only to find that the spare is flat.
3. Check the engine oil level
As we have known, an engine needs oil to run. If your oil has not been changed in a while then it will fail to serve its purpose, likewise if there is not enough in there in the first place.
Most cars have a dip stick to test the oil level. With a rag to hand, remove the dip-stick and clean off the oil. Replace the dip-stick and remove it again after 5-7 seconds. The level should be between the two scored lines, as indicated on the dip-stick. Ideally it should be brown and relatively clear. If the oil is black, thick, or has small metallic fragments in it then you must get it changed at your nearest service station as soon as possible.
FRIENDLY REMIND: Your oil filter should be changed annually.
4. Check water level
A car needs more than just air to keep it cool, so checking your water level each week is very important.
Before your journey, when the engine is cool, simply remove the radiator cap and fill it with water to the “Max” line. You would be well-advised to add proper coolant, too, which can be bought from all major petrol stations. But if the water is all you have then that will do in the short term.
Always pay attention to your water temperature display on your car’s dashboard. The water temperature should normally run at around 90C (although check your manual). If you notice the needle starting to rise, or the red warning light comes on, pull over and stop immediately. A trick to help cool the engine is to turn the heater on full blast, although we don't recommend this in the summer.
FRIENDLY REMIND: Never undo the radiator cap when the engine is hot! You risk being scalded by boiling water.
5. Check washer fluid
While refilling your washer bottle will not reduce the risk of a breakdown, it is an often understated check which can compromise your safety.
What would you do if you found the dust and grime from a passing lorry caked all over your windscreen? If you cannot see where you are going then that will certainly end badly.
6. Keep air filter clean
You will know from your own home that sand gets everywhere, even in the form of a microfilm, you cannot escape it.
It too can cause havoc with your car. The purpose of the air filter is to prevent sand from getting sucked into the fuel mix in the engine, so it is important to keep it clean.
7. Check the electrical system
Check the horn, windshield wipers, and all the interior and exterior lights in your vehicle before setting out on a road trip. Put a few extra fuses and bulbs in your toolbox in case something goes out on the road. You do not want to waste valuable beach time looking for an auto parts store. Get someone to stand outside of the car while you try out the brake lights. A ticket is not a vacation souvenir you will cherish. Change the wiper blades, too. Make sure the air conditioner is working at peak performance, and take the vehicle to the shop if it seems to be a little sluggish. That road trip will seem much longer if you are sweltering on the highway.
How to avoid car breakdown in winter
The winter period is one that many drivers fear. Dropping temperatures, early nightfall, and low visibility can make stopping on the side of the road especially dangerous during colder months. While nothing can replace safe driving habits and a well-stocked emergency kit, you can avoid some worst-case winter scenarios by following these easy car maintenance tips about preventing engine overheating, solving dead battery problem, preventing squealing noise when you start the car, dealing with bald or under-inflated tires, keeping your wipers and windscreen free of ice and checking anti-freeze of cooling system.
1. Prevent engine overheating
Motor oil runs thicker in cold temperatures, making it harder for it to circulate and keep your car running smoothly - and prevent it from overheating.
How do you prevent it? A “multi-viscosity” motor oil will be better at adapting to all weather conditions. Ask your mechanic or call your car manufacturer’s customer service line to find out if you should do a winter oil change. They may recommend switching to thinner oil that is rated for colder temperatures.
2. Solve dead battery problem
It’s harder for car batteries to produce a charge in winter - meaning it might not be able to produce enough energy to start your car when you turn the key.
To avoid it you should check your battery’s voltage with a voltmeter or multimeter before it gets too cold. (Or ask your mechanic to take a look when you are getting your car winterized). Roughly 12.40 - 12.75 volts is enough to ensure reliable startups. If you live in a really chilly place, consider investing in a battery rated for cold temperatures. Look for a high CCA (cold cranking amps) count – it is a measure of how many amps the battery can generate in low temperatures.
3. Prevent squealing noise when you start the car
You left your vehicle out overnight. Therefore, when you turn on your engine that will not turn over, you hear loud squealing, warning lights come on or steam starts pouring from under the hood shortly. Any one of these things may mean that your radiator may have frozen and cracked leading to some costly repairs.
Prevent it: Park indoors if you can. This will help prevent fluids in your engine from freezing and expanding. Also, be sure to check your car’s coolant concentration before winter – it is called antifreeze for a reason. Add it to your mechanic’s pre-winter checklist to make sure the proportions are correct and keep it from freezing. A 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water should be sufficient according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
4. Deal with bald or under-inflated tires
Check your tires before winter weather hits, and continue doing so regularly after it gets cold. It is important that they stay properly inflated, as the air pressure can drop 2 PSI for every 10 degrees the outdoor air temperatures decreases. You ought to use a gas station air pump to check your tires at every other fill-up during the winter. (The recommended PSI is typically printed on a sticker on the inside of the driver’s-side door.) It’s also crucial to make sure the tread is not worn down. To do so, try this easy trick: Take a penny and stick it into the center of the tread with Lincoln’s head pointed in. If you can see his hair, the tread depth is too low and your tires need to be replaced. Spring for some dedicated winter tires if you live in a place with severe weather.
5. Keep your wipers and windscreen free of ice
Ice, snow and frost can scratch and crack your windscreen, so it is important to keep your wipers and windscreen free of ice. If the blades of your wipers are frozen, they could scratch the screen when you use them.
Similarly, blades might get damaged if they are frozen to the screen and you try to remove them forcefully. Checks if your windscreen wipers and replace them if they are worn or damaged. Using anti-freeze helps melt the ice from frozen wipers and makes it easier for you to wipe away ice from the screen with a scraper. Never use hot water to clear ice since it can crack the windscreen.
You should also buy cold weather washer fluid, which is formulated to deal with cold temperatures. Regular washer fluid may freeze and is not as effective in the winter. Having wipers that are in good working order and cold weather washer fluid will ensure your wipers can clear ice, which can damage the glass and affect your visibility.
6. Check anti-freeze of cooling system
You should check your vehicle’s systems that are designed to handle the elements during colder months, including looking at the cooling system and confirming that there is enough anti-freeze to keep your engine’s cooling system from freezing. A frozen or cracked engine due to the cold will cost hundreds of pounds to repair. The cold weather can also freeze your vehicle’s water pump and radiator. Before buying anti-freeze, check your vehicle’s manual to see what the right type for your car is. Your manual will also tell you how often you should replace the anti-freeze.
Above are ways can for you to avoid car breakdown that help prevent your dream journey turning into a nightmare in summer and winter.