Here we are again: Spring. Everything seems to be slowly coming back to life. Proms and weddings begin to dominate our schedule. The weather is more enjoyable. But spring also has another significance -- it’s the gateway to summer, the season of extreme conditions that can wreak havoc on your livery vehicle
Summer is generally the main season for mechanical failure. The reason is simple: limousines generate high temperatures when they are running, and because of the summer heat, that condition is increased substantially. During these high-temperature days, we tend to let our limousines run for longer periods to keep the car cool for clients. But, in doing this, we increase the potential for mechanical failure. The high temperature under the hood can cause damage to relays, belts, sensors and other sensitive parts. It can also put more pressure on your cooling system since it has to work harder to keep the engine from overheating.
The following are ways to reduce the potential for these problems as well as a few convenient ideas to help with the transition to hotter temperatures. Even if you have a vigorous maintenance schedule, it is always a good idea to add a supplemental program in the spring in order to help prevent problems due to mechanical failure.
GETTING THE CAR READY
1. Check the strength of your coolant. Weak coolant boils at a lower temperature, reducing your vehicle’s ability to prevent boilovers.
2. Check hoses and clamps. Make sure there are no signs of wear or swelling on the hoses, as this may cause failure. And be sure the clamps are tight to prevent leaks.
3. Check all belts. If you have a worn belt, chances are the added heat could cause it to break.
4. Check your water pump. Be sure there are no leaks or noises coming from the pump. If the water pump squeaks, it could mean a worn bearing.
5. Have the air-conditioning system checked by a qualified service technician. They have the equipment to be sure it is running at the proper temperature and pressure.
6. Spray air freshener into the air-conditioning vents. After a winter of little or no use, your air conditioner may emit a strong, musty smell. Address this with a clean-smelling air freshener spray.
7. Use synthetic oil during oil changes. Even though I use synthetic oil year round, I recommend it even more in the summer months. It doesn’t break down like conventional oils, giving you extra protection.
8. Check your cooling fans. I have seen many problems arise from cooling fan malfunction. On clutch fans, be sure to check the clutch, and on electric fans, check motors, various speeds, relays, fuses and the connectors.
9. Examine condenser drains. Be sure the drains for your air-conditioner condenser are not clogged. A clogged drain can end up causing moisture to back up into your limo, causing damage and bad musty odors.
DURING THE SUMMER
1. Prop the hood. It’s a good idea to prop your hood about six inches if you are sitting at idle for long periods. This helps your car dissipate heat, reducing the chance for damage.
2. Find shade. When waiting for your client, you should try to park in shade. This will help your air conditioner operate more efficiently, keeping your limo cooler.
3. Check your tire pressure regularly. Different temperatures can affect your tire pressure. Also, hot roads, long drives and improper inflation can be ingredients for failure. Check manufacturer requirements for proper inflation.
4. Keep spare parts handy. I highly recommend keeping a spare alternator, a spare belt and the tools required to replace them in a kit in every vehicle. Most summertime breakdowns are linked to either one or both of these items. I also advise chauffeurs to become proficient at replacing these parts because even if you do employ a full-time mechanic, the limousine may be too far away for him to help in a timely manner.
5. Power down. When you are idling with the air running, it is wise to power down the rest of the systems in the coach, i.e., television, stereo, lights and anything else that may draw extra power from your charging system. I also advise that after final drop off, you power down all systems in the rear of the vehicle. This will help your charging system last longer.
The summer months may be hot, but you can do many things to keep them from making you hot under the collar. Following these tips can keep things running smoothly. You can’t eliminate problems altogether, but you can reduce them by thinking ahead. The old adage, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," is one worth heeding.