Inspection: The first thing that should be checked are your belts and hoses. *MCT photo
Inspection: The first thing that should be checked are your belts and hoses. *MCT photo

FRIDAY, JUNE 22: The key to summer driving is keeping the engine cool, and there are several things you should check now to make sure your car is ready for the onslaught of heat to come.

Check hoses and belts

Probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think about keeping your car engine cool is the radiator and coolant, but first you need to check the hoses and belts. The hoses connected to the radiator help pump coolant to and from the engine block, and the belts run the fan that helps cool the system further. If the hoses crack or the belts snap, the radiator will quickly overheat, leaving you stranded.

Check hoses closely for cracks, leaks and loose connections. They should be firm, never soft and malleable. Hoses suffer from a slow deterioration process called electrochemical degradation that eats away at rubber hose material from the inside. The most vulnerable parts of the hose are those nearest to clamps where the hose connects to the radiator or the engine.

Belts can also be visually checked for cracks and damage. You could even remove the belts to make sure that the material hasn’t started separating into different layers.

Check the coolant and radiator

Vehicles are designed to run hot, but there’s a limit. If an engine gets too hot, moving metal parts can actually start to melt and fuse together, causing a variety of internal problems for your engine, as well as a hefty repair bill.

Fortunately, modern cars have cooling system that uses a chemical coolant, called antifreeze, and a series of pumps, hoses, thermostats and fans to keep the car at its optimal running temperature. But any problems with this system, such as low coolant levels, cracked hoses, loose or broken belts, a leak in the radiator or even a loose or missing radiator cap can cause your car to overheat and break down.

The summertime is tough on cooling systems. Sitting in traffic on a hot day like most of us do during rush hour is one of the quickest ways to overheat your car.

This is because there’s no air flowing across the engine to help keep it cool. A well-tuned cooling system can handle idling for long periods of time in hot weather, but if you shave low coolant levels or a broken fan belt, your engine temperature is going to go up fast.

Check under the hood and make sure that your coolant levels are fine. The general rule is to have your radiator flushed and new coolant added every two years.

Flushing the radiator is done with a special chemical that cleans debris and build-up on the inside of the radiator. For summer driving, coolant should be added as a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water.

If you see a small puddle of coolant under your car when it’s been parked for a while, then you have a coolant leak. Take it to the service station as soon as you can to get your system checked out.

Equally, if you notice any issues mentioned in this article, make sure to take your vehicle to a certified service centre. Also, if you’re unsure how to perform any the checks outlined, then now’s the time to take your vehicle in for a pre-summer checkup. It’s more cost-effective to maintain your car and prevent issues before they happen than to pay to for repairs after.

Krishna King has more than 20 years’ experience in the automotive industry, and chairs the Automotive Occupational Advisory Committee for the National Training Board.