1) Evaporative leak: Evaporative emissions are caused by fuel volatility, or its tendency to change from liquid to gas. A rise in outside temperature can cause an increase in pressure in your gas tank, which must be vented to prevent the gas tank from deforming. They are vented from your gas tank into a charcoal canister on your vehicle, which absorbs the fuel vapor and stores it until the engine is started and the vapors can be purged. The evaporative system is much more than your gas cap; it’s a network of hoses, valves and canisters that manage evaporative emissions from your vehicle. Vehicles today need to detect a leak that is 0.02 inches in diameter. If such a leak is detected, the “check engine” light must turn on. Although a loose gas cap is a common culprit, don’t assume it’s the cap. If your vehicle is older, you may have a cracked hose, which is in essence a fuel leak.

2) Engine hesitation or surge: This problem may occur for a variety of issues, such as a dirty air filter, which can require the engine to work much harder and can cause drivability problems. In high heat and humidity, vehicles are prone to problems with exhaust gas recirculation, which sends a portion of the exhaust back through the engine to help reduce emissions. In the summer, this flow can build up in your intake manifold, causing blockages and drivability problems. If not fixed, it can lead to expensive repairs. If you’re getting your car ready for a trip, be sure the air filter is clean. If you’re only halfway into your cross-country trip when this problem occurs, it’s a good idea to get to the local repair shop. Think of your vehicle’s air intake system as analogous to your lungs. Anything that’s blocking or restricting flow causes you, or your engine, to have to work harder to get the same level of oxygen.

3) Overheating: Some of the most common reasons cars and trucks overheat are a faulty cooling system or low fluid level. During hotter months, your vehicle’s cooling system has to work harder to prevent engine overheating. Check your car’s fluids, such as engine coolant, brake fluid, automatic transmission fluid, washer fluid and engine oil regularly. Don’t wait until your dashboard warning light comes on or you find yourself pulled to the side of the road with a steaming hood. If you do wind up in this situation, turn off your air conditioning and turn on your heater. Although it’s hot, it can help remove heat from the engine and use the additional fans to cool things down until you can get to safety.

4) Flat tire/blowout: One of the most common culprits of road-trip delays are flat tires, which can be caused by wear and tear or overinflation in summer months caused by increased air pressure from the heat. While some newer vehicles have tire-pressure monitoring systems, most cars’ computers will not detect this problem. A simple tire gauge will tell you if you need to add or let out air in your tires. Most service stations have a gauge on the air pump. Refer to your owner’s manual or the label inside the driver’s door for proper tire inflation levels.

5) No start: Car batteries rarely signal failure ahead of time and often occur at the most inopportune time, such as during a getaway. Hot summer months are the worst conditions for your battery. Make sure your vehicle has all of the plastic pieces that surround the battery. These pieces are engineered to keep your battery cool and divert fresh air across the battery to extend its life. The battery is used mainly for starting the vehicle. If it is taking a long time to start, check the battery. You can do this with a simple battery tester that plugs into your vehicle’s 12-volt receptacle. A failed battery will cause the alternator/generator to work harder to charge it, and can lead to alternator failure if not cared for quickly. Take care of battery problems while it’s just the battery. Another good preventive measure is to replace your battery every three years or as recommended by your manual.

Let Dr. Automotive in Smyrna fix any of these common summer car failures before they become huge issues!