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Beat the heat

Nine things on your checklist for a smooth ride this summer

In a hot country like India, staying cool is a challenge for both man and car. And dust makes it even more difficult. Also, as the mercury soars, the air-conditioning in the car tends to give up if it hasn’t been properly serviced. Here’s what to do to make sure your car continues to run without a hitch.

THE WASH

First things first. Clean up the car. Get the caked dirt off the wheel wells, underbody and engine bay. Pay particular attention to the radiator and the condenser of the air-conditioner. These have metal fins to dissipate heat and cool down the fluids passing through. The cleaner they are, the faster they do their job. So unblock the gaps with pressurised water at a service station. (You can do this once a quarter if you like.) It’s also easier to check a car when everything is clean and any damage is clearly visible.

ENGINE OIL

This keeps friction down and the various parts of the engine moving smoothly. If that doesn’t happen, friction and, consequently, the heat generated increases. That could lead to engine failure as the moving parts have the minimum of spaces between them and if one gets jammed, the total engine will need to be repaired. If this happens it would cost a lot of money to get the car on the road again. So you need to check that there’s enough engine oil and that it has not turned black.

WIPERS & WASHER

The crucial part of a wiper is the blade and that is made of rubber. And it tends to harden with time and loses its ability to clean the screen properly. Summer rains tend to be quite heavy and because of the dust you might need to use the washer and wiper to clean the windshield from time to time if you are driving for long periods. The blades should be fine and there should be enough washer fluid in the tank.

INTERIORS

Often during winter liquid spills in the car or moisture carried in by shoes cannot dry out thoroughly. Plus, over time all kinds of things tend to collect in a car. It makes sense to clean them out as well as have the seats and carpet cleaned. Once that’s done the car needs to be aired out and you should be ready for the season.

BRAKES

With no fog or mist and better visibility than in winter, driving speed tends to go up. So it is all the more important to ensure that the brakes are doing their job. If they pull to one side under heavy braking or make a lot of noise, get them checked and get the pads replaced if they have worn out. If the level of brake fluid in the reservoir is low, definitely get the brakes checked even if the brake warning light on the dash hasn’t come on. Keep the brake fluid at the recommended level so that no air gets into the system.

LIGHTS

The faster you go the further you need to be able to see. And your lights are what will make sure you see where you are going. So replace fused bulbs, replace those that may have lost a bit of brightness and check that all of them work. That apart, at night, it is the lights that help others see you. Which is as important as you seeing them.

ENGINE COOLING SYSTEM

This is the season when the cooling system will, well, face the heat. Even a clean radiator may not be able to cool things down enough without the aid of the cooling fan that increases the amount of air going through. So make sure that it is coming on when the engine temperature rises. Also check the rubber hoses that connect the engine and the radiator. If they are hard and brittle, have them changed. Else they can burst with the pressure of the coolant and leave you stranded. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge on the dash and make sure it works too.

AIR-CONDITIONING

This is the bit of the car that’s crucial to the well-being of passengers in summer. When it is switched on after lying unused during the winter months, the chances of malfunction are the highest. Have it thoroughly checked by a professional and get it fixed if it’s not cooling sufficiently well. Or it’s likely to fail at some point. It’s best to check the aircon when the car is on the move than when it’s parked.

TYRES AND TYRE PRESSURE

A car’s tyres take the brunt of the summer heat and are, thus, highly prone to failure. They heat up because of friction with the road, which in turn heats up the air inside and expands it. That creates a lot of pressure and tyres that are worn or have damaged sidewalls could blow out when a car is on the move. That’s bad news for passengers or even those on the road as the car is likely to go out of control. So make sure that the tyres are in good nick, even the one on the spare wheel. Also, don’t overinflate them.

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