Prepping Your Car for Summer: 11 Auto Insurance and Maintenance Tips

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It’s important to make sure your vehicle is in good condition heading into the hot summer months because heat can negatively affect numerous parts of your car, including its fluids, fuel, battery and tires.[1] In addition, you may want to consider adding roadside assistance to your auto insurance policy in case something does go wrong with your vehicle while you’re out and about this summer.

Keep reading to see 11 summer car care tips and to learn what parts you need to check while you’re prepping your car for summer and when it may be time to take your vehicle to a mechanic for repairs.

Key Takeaways

  • Before going on a summer road trip, you may want to inspect various parts of your car for damage, including your tires, fluids, battery, AC system, windshield wipers, belts and hoses.
  • You should get your oil changed every 5,000 to 7,500 miles you drive and may want to replace your oil filter at least every other time you get an oil change.
  • It’s helpful to clear away unnecessary items in your car and instead store emergency supplies such as jumper cables, water, tools, a first aid kit and more.
  • If your car breaks down, you can receive services like towing, winching, jumpstarts, spare tire changes and more by purchasing a standalone roadside assistance plan or adding roadside assistance coverage to your auto insurance policy.

1. Check Your Tires

Before traveling a long distance this summer, you’ll want to make sure your tires are in good shape. For example, you may need to fill up your tires with air to avoid a blowout caused by low tire pressure. Additionally, you may have to replace your tires altogether when their tread gets too low so that you don’t lose traction with the road while you’re driving.

The recommended tire pressure for most cars falls between 28 and 36 pounds per square inch (PSI), although this can vary.[2] You can usually find the exact tire pressure recommendation for your vehicle in the owner’s manual or on a sticker attached to the front doorjamb on the driver’s side.

Meanwhile, the tread of your tires should not be shallower than 2/32 of an inch. One simple way to check a tire’s tread depth is to stick a penny upside down into one of its tread ribs. If the rib doesn’t cover any of Abraham Lincoln’s head, then the tread is too low and it’s likely time to get a replacement tire.[3]

2. Check Your Car’s Fluid Levels

It’s also important to ensure that your vehicle has adequate levels of various types of fluids such as transmission, brake, windshield washer and power steering fluid. In particular, it’s crucial to have enough coolant during the summer since it helps keep your engine at a consistent temperature. Without a sufficient amount of coolant, you run the risk of experiencing a mechanical breakdown due to your engine overheating.

3. Clean and Test Your Car Battery

You can clear away battery acid by applying baking soda and a bit of water to the corroded parts of your car battery and scrubbing it away with a sponge or toothbrush.[4] Then, you can measure your battery’s voltage with a multimeter device to see if it’s in good condition or if you need a new one before doing any extensive traveling.

If your battery’s voltage is below 12.4 volts, the battery may need to be charged. Meanwhile, if its voltage is below 9.6 volts while the engine is being cranked, this is a sign that the battery is weak and may potentially need to be replaced soon.[5]

4. Test Your AC

A fully functioning air conditioning system is the best way to keep the inside of your vehicle from getting too hot while you’re driving, so it’s especially important to make sure your AC can continue to circulate cool air throughout your entire car whenever you drive during the summer.

That said, if your AC doesn’t seem to be working properly, there are other ways to keep yourself cool as you drive such as rolling your windows down to improve air circulation, parking in shaded areas, drinking plenty of water and using a cooling seat cover or portable fan.

5. Test Your Brakes

You should test your brakes before heading out for a summer road trip and keep an eye out for signs that they may need to be checked by a professional such as the following:[6]

  • Screeching or grinding sounds
  • Visible wear and tear
  • Greater or less sensitivity to being pressed than usual
  • Your car vibrating or pulling to one side when you press the brakes
  • Brake fluid puddled underneath your parked car

6. Consider an Oil and Filter Change

Keeping your motor oil fresh and free of contaminants is important because it can improve your car’s performance and longevity. Most cars need to have their oil changed every 5,000 to 7,500 miles.[7] Meanwhile, many automobile manufacturers recommend having your oil filter replaced every other time you get an oil change, although many mechanics recommend having the filter replaced every time you get an oil change.[8]

7. Replace Your Windshield Wiper Blades

Wiper blades tend to wear out quickly, so you can expect to need to replace them every six to nine months.[9] Getting new windshield wipers before the beginning of summer may be especially beneficial if you live in the southeastern United States, where states average between four and eight inches of rain per month from June to August.[10]

8. Check the Car’s Belts and Hoses

Steps you should take as you inspect your vehicle’s belts and hoses during your summer car maintenance session include checking them for visible cracks or bulges, squeezing the radiator hoses to see if there are any soft spots and keeping an eye out for glazing on the sides of your accessory belts.[11] If you notice any of these signs of damage, you may want to consider having your belts and hoses replaced.

9. Restock Your Emergency Supplies

It’s advisable to maintain an emergency kit in your vehicle anytime you plan on driving a long distance. Some of the items you should be sure to keep in your car in case of an on-the-road emergency this summer include the following:[12]

  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Drinking water and non-perishable foods
  • Blankets
  • First aid kit
  • Automotive fuses
  • Tools
  • Duct tape

10. Remove Items That You Don’t Need in Your Car

To make space for all of the emergency items you may want to put in your vehicle, you’ll likely need to remove unimportant or intrusive items like trash and perishable foods. In addition, you should be wary of storing valuable belongings in your car since they may face a higher risk of being stolen whenever you leave your vehicle unattended.

11. Make Sure You Have Roadside Assistance

For the best protection while you’re traveling by car this summer, you should purchase a roadside assistance plan that can provide timely support in the event that you end up stranded on the side of the road. Services that are commonly covered by roadside assistance include the following:

  • Towing and winching
  • Battery jumpstarts
  • Tire replacement
  • Locksmith services
  • Fuel delivery

what does roadside assistance cover

Keep in mind that, even if you have roadside assistance, your insurer may not cover the costs of repairing your broken-down vehicle depending on the source of damage. For example, sudden internal failures and other mechanical breakdowns are only covered by car repair insurance, while basic wear and tear may not be covered by any type of car insurance policy.

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What are the benefits of prepping your car for summer?

Preparing your car for summer helps you avoid preventable mechanical breakdowns and improves your odds of staying safe during your summer road trips.

Does summer heat affect cars?

Yes, summer heat can negatively impact your vehicle’s fluids, fuel, battery and tires.[1]

How long should you let your car cool down in the summer?

Your car’s cooling system should work better while the vehicle is in motion, so there’s no need to idle your car and let the AC run before you start driving. Instead, you should turn on the AC and keep your windows rolled down for 10 to 20 seconds as you drive to let hot air out of your car.[13]


  1. AAA Club Alliance. “Can the Heat Affect Your Car?” Accessed May 6, 2024.
  2. Pirelli. “Recommended Tire Pressure for Your Tires.” Accessed May 6, 2024.
  3. Bridgestone Tires. “How To Check Tire Tread Depth: The Penny Test.” Accessed May 6, 2024.
  4. Jaguar Englewood. “How To Clean Car Battery Corrosion.” Accessed May 7, 2024.
  5. Advance Auto Parts. “How To Test a Car Battery’s Voltage.” Accessed May 6, 2024.
  6. Performance Honda. “9 Early Warning Signs You Need New Brakes.” Accessed May 6, 2024.
  7. AAA Automotive. “How Often Should You Change Engine Oil.” Accessed May 6, 2024.
  8. Freehold Subaru. “How Often Should I Change My Oil Filter.” Accessed May 6, 2024.
  9. Smart Toyota. “How Often Should You Replace Your Vehicle’s Wiper Blades.” Accessed May 6, 2024.
  10. Current Results. “Summer Rainfall Averages for Each USA State.” Accessed May 6, 2024.
  11. Consumer Reports. “How To Inspect Car Belts and Hoses.” Accessed May 6, 2024.
  12. California Highway Patrol. “Roadside Emergency Kit.” Accessed May 6, 2024.
  13. Consumer Reports. “Get the Most Cool From Car Air Conditioning.” Accessed May 6, 2024.

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