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As spring turns into summer, we look forward to long, warm days and refreshing thundershowers. Here are some tips to make sure your car will be ready for the hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer.
l Be ready for the heat
Overheating is one of the commonest causes of roadside breakdowns. The first sign of a struggling cooling system is usually a temperature gauge that hovers near the high end, even in cool temperatures. You can diagnose the problem by a few simple observations:
Check the coolant level when the engine is cold. If it is low, look for leaks from the radiator or hoses.
Leaks from hoses can sometimes be stopped by tightening the clamps, but a leak from the radiator means it must be removed and taken to a radiator shop to be either cleaned and soldered, or fitted with a new core if the old one is corroded.
If no leaks are visible, look carefully at the coolant. Hopefully it contains an antifreeze/anti-corrosion additive, so it will have a greenish or yellowish colour. But is it transparent or murky? Murkiness indicates solid matter in suspension and perhaps blocked tubes in the radiator. This also calls for the services of a radiator shop.
DIY flushes will seldom shift hardened deposits. Flush the water jackets in the block and cylinder head before re-fitting the radiator.
If the coolant is clean as a whistle, and especially if you are able to look at the down tubes to confirm they are clear, the focus shifts to the radiator fan.
To check that the fan comes on when it should, wait half an hour after coming home one evening, start the engine and watch the gauge to see at which point you hear the fan coming on. It should be before the gauge is three-quarters up the "normal" section of the scale.