August is right around the corner, and your mechanic is expecting you.
Is your ride up to date on its maintenance? After all, it’s hot as heck, and your mechanic is preparing for another August spent working on countless broken air conditioner components and overheating engines. After all, the added heat of summer travel means additional strain on vital components during towing, hauling and long family trips.
“It’s a huge part of our work this time of year, actually” says mechanic Paul Kennaley. “Most drivers pay little attention to their cooling system or air conditioning system until it’s really hot out. So, if there’s something that needs attention, or is threatening to cause problems, with the AC or cooling system in a car, it usually surfaces when its hot out– and right when you need it to be working properly”.
Poorly maintained parts tend to show themselves when vehicles are pushed to extremes. As such, a sweltering summer day is a fantastic time for overheating, driveline failure or engine damage, if your cooling system isn’t performing properly. Any of the above will leave you stranded on the roadside with a car full of sweaty, irritated and cranky family members. Fortunately, readying your cooling system for warm-weather travelling is a relatively quick and painless endeavor.
Cooling System Maintenance
In addition to keeping your engine running at its ideal operating temperature, your cooling system may play a part in keeping other components, like your transmission, from overheating as well. Your cooling system works by circulating coolant throughout the engine to absorb and remove the tremendous heat it generates while running.
Over time, the effectiveness of the coolant diminishes, and a coolant change is required. This occurs in varying intervals for different vehicles, or on an ‘as-needed’ basis as advised by your mechanic. Forget when your coolant was changed last? It’s probably overdue. Car have ‘lifetime’ coolant installed at the factory? Change it anyways: doing so is cheap, and may prevent problems down the line.
A proper cooling system check should include a look at coolant level and effectiveness, the thermostat, and the water-pump belt, if applicable. The radiator and associated hoses and lines should be inspected as well, and a visual check for leaks is also important.
If your ride is dripping green fluid and you’re planning a road trip anyways, you’re asking for trouble. Overheating can quickly lead to engine failure and permanent, catastrophic damage. Cooling system repairs tend to be considerably more affordable than an engine replacement.
A periodic radiator flush is also advisable to remove harmful sludge from within the cooling system. Sludge may accumulate within the radiator and hoses over time, reducing effectiveness and component life. Put another way, a coolant flush ensures everything is functioning properly, from the inside out.
Thankfully, your cooling system isn’t a tremendously complicated animal– and reliable operation is mainly a function of keeping on top of the maintenance it occasionally requires.
AC System Maintenance
Protecting your engine from the heat this summer is only half the battle– and you’ll want to make sure you and your passengers benefit from a reliable and effective air conditioning system. If your AC seems hesitant to blow cold, or if it isn’t cooling the cabin as quickly as you remember, an inspection is in order. This can of
ten reveal a small problem before it escalates into a much larger and pricier one.
For instance, a leaking AC line or fitting may allow air, moisture or other contaminants into the system. This can cause a world of trouble and result in serious damage. Air and moisture mixing with refrigerant is bad news- so fixing a leak early on can save money, not to mention preventing potentially harmful chemicals from winding up in the atmosphere.
A simple mechanical or electrical failure could result in improper operation of the AC system, too. A properly trained technician will be able to diagnose and remedy such problems quickly and effectively.
Another common cause of poor AC performance may be a blocked condenser. This vital part typically gets clogged by leaves, dead bugs, sand or dirt. Learn where your condenser is, and make sure it’s kept clean to ensure proper operation.
Finally, note that a plugged cabin air filter is a common cause of air conditioner problems, according to many mechanics. A startling number of drivers aren’t aware that their ride has an in-cabin air filter, so they never change them. The filters clog almost totally, rendering the AC system useless. Sometimes, a simple cabin air filter change is all that’s needed to bring an AC system back to life.
Note that if you’re uncomfortable performing vehicle-related work yourself, your favorite mechanic would be happy to help. Most cooling and air-conditioning maintenance can be carried out quickly the next time your vehicle is in the shop for an oil-change or tune up.