Category Archives: car problems

3 Common Summer Car Problems (and how to prevent them!)

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open road for road tripThis summer, you should be heading out on a road trip—not stuck on the side of the road waiting for a tow.  Those same temperatures that can make your road trip so much fun can also cause your car to break down—unless you take a few simple steps to combat the problems that cause some of the most common summer car problems (and breakdowns).

Dead battery

Believe it or not, the heat of our Wisconsin summers is actually harder on our car batteries than the winter. The heat and humidity of our Midwestern summers can cause battery fluid to evaporate and damage the internal parts of your battery.

How to prevent this problem: know the age of your car battery, and the signs of a failing car battery.  Most car batteries need to be replaced every 3-5 years.  If you have to charge your battery randomly or your car is consistently starting rough, make an appointment to replace your battery before you head out on your road trip.

Overheating

The cause of this problem is two-fold, so stop solely blaming summer’s hot temperatures.  The other cause is a faulty cooling system, making your car work harder to maintain a healthy temperature.  If the warning light comes on or there’s steam coming out from under (not above) your hood, the problem is serious.  Pull over and call your local repair shop immediately.

How to prevent this problem: check your fluids regularly, or have your mechanic check them at every oil change.  Don’t miss an oil change, and check under your car randomly to see if your car is leaking (beyond the regular dripping from your AC, that’s normal).  If you do have a leak, use this guide to pinpoint the kind of fluid.  Use that information to make an appointment with your mechanic and get the problem fixed and prevent overheating.

Flat Tire

Summer is hard on tires.  Hot roads can make your tires flex more, and can add stress to tires that are filled to the maximum air pressure.  In addition, road construction can add to the amount of debris left on roads, leaving drivers stranded with a flat.

How to prevent this problem: know the right tire pressure for your car (hint: the correct number is not on the tire) and check it regularly (directions can be found here).  If you happen to roll over a random nail or piece of metal, follow these steps for replacing your flat tire.  Don’t automatically dispose of the damaged tire; make an appointment.  Your mechanic may be able to make a repair and get you more miles out of that tire (on your summer road trip!).

Common Car Breakdowns (and what you can do about them)

car mechanic working on common car breakdownWe’ve all experienced the disappointment and inconvenience of an unexpected car breakdown. One minute you’re ready to go, or on your way to your destination, and suddenly you’re stuck on the side of the road. We’ll just say it: common car breakdowns suck. The good news is that many of these common car problems that keep you from hitting the road are preventable. The bad news is that you’re stuck on the side of the road right now. Here’s what to do about it.

Dead battery

What to do: Try to jump start your car. Remember to BE CAREFUL! Remember, you are touching an electrical system, and you could get hurt. Locate the positive and negative terminals on your battery. A “+” means positive and a “-“ means negative. Attach the positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery. Attach the other positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the live battery. Attach the negative clamp of the jumper cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery. Attach the other negative clamp of the jumper cable to a non-moving metal part of the engine. Do not reach into any areas with moving belts or parts. Turn on the car that starts for a few minutes. Lightly rev the engine by pressing the gas pedal. Start the car with the (formerly) dead battery. Remove the jumper cables. Get your battery checked and replaced if necessary.

How you can prevent it: Watch for signs of a weak battery, such as a car that starts slowly or dies suddenly for no reason. If you are concerned about the health of your battery, ask your mechanic to test your battery to see if it shows any signs of replacement.

Flat Tire

What to do: Make sure your car is completely out of traffic. Apply your parking brake if you are on a hill. Locate your spare tire, owner’s manual, lug wrench (looks like an X), and emergency jack. Place the emergency jack under the frame and raise your car (your emergency manual has information on where). Remove the hub cap by prying it off with a screw driver. Position your lug wrench over the lug nuts and twist off each lug nut. Once you have all the lug nuts off, place your new tire on and start screwing your lug nuts back on by hand. Tighten each lug nut with the lug wrench. When done, lower your jack and place your flat tire in the trunk. Get your flat tire to a mechanic to see if it can be repaired. Do not drive around for an extended period of time with your spare tire on your vehicle.

How you can prevent it: You can’t avoid those tiny little nails that take your tire out every time, but you can take some common precautions. Check your tire pressure periodically (here’s directions how) and keep your tires at an optimum tire pressure (you can find this number on a decal in your driver’s side door). Watch for common signs that your tires are worn, such as a low tire tread, cracks, blisters, and consistent low pressure.

Out of Gas

What to do: Secure your vehicle. If you are near a gas station, safely walk to the station and purchase a container and gas. Otherwise, call for help. If you think you have a gas leak, get your car towed to a mechanic to get the problem fixed.

How you can prevent it: Don’t gamble on gasoline. Pay attention to your fuel warning light to make sure you know when it comes on.

Obviously you can’t prevent every car breakdown (remember that driver that turned in front of you?), but you can take steps to make sure your car stays in working order and so you have the supplies you need when you do break down. Pack an emergency kit appropriate for the seasons (you’re not going to need snow boots in your summer kit), and keep your town truck phone number (920-261-8111) in the contacts on your phone and on a piece of paper in your emergency kit.