July is here and that means a few things – Independence Day, fun in the sun, Shark Week and, of course, blistering summer heat. While getting close to the shark-infested waters might be your biggest fear at the moment, we’re here to tell you about something equally frightening…. the damage the sun is having on your car.

In summer heat, we’re constantly reminded to protect our skin with SPF and our bodies by drinking lots of fluids. And yet, we rarely think of the effects of the sun on our poor vehicles.

It’s about time we started treating our cars as well, or better, than we treat ourselves in the heat. Here’s how you can start.

Make sure the mechanics are running smoothly

It takes more to keep your car’s inner-workings healthy than just taking it to the shop for an oil change. While that’s important, you’ll also want to check that belts are working, the coolant level is satisfactory and all hoses are in good condition. In addition, you should check your transmission fluid and change it if need be.

The sun can also damage the part of you car that you don’t want to be without in the summer – your air conditioning system. Minor leaks often go undetected, so you’ll want to check on that regularly. If you don’t catch the leak in time, the AC can stop working altogether.

Protect the interior

There are a few simple tools you can buy to protect your car from sun damage. Perhaps you’ve laughed at people who put a reflectorized panel in the windshield when they leave the car. But this can dramatically lower your car’s interior temperature and keep the sun from bleaching it. You can even purchase funky panels like this one.

While we sometimes forget to dust our cars, it’s especially important to keep the dash and console dust-free in the summertime. You know how the sun can cook an egg on the sidewalk if it’s hot enough? Well, it’ll cook the dust in your car too, making it nearly impossible to remove later.

Check your tires

During the hot summer months, you need to check your tire pressure first thing in the morning when the tires are cool and haven’t been rolling over the scorching pavement. The combination of hot pavement and a deflated tire can lead to an ugly blowout. And that’s the last thing you need to happen when you’re driving to the beach.

parking lot

Think about where you park

If you can, park in the shade. Seems like a pretty common sense tip, right?

While parking in the back of the lot under some trees might increase the walk to your destination, this simple act can go a long way. When parked in direct sunlight, your car can reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit on a hot day. Of course, you’ll want to be aware of summer storms and the damage a fallen tree could do.

Wash and wax it yourself

Even though it can be fun, washing the car usually feels like a chore. But, using the right soap and drying the car correctly will keep your car looking better, longer.

Make sure you use specialty car washing soap and then hand dry. It’s best if you use a soft chamois for drying.

The other big rule-of-thumb is to plan on washing your car when it’s cool out. If you wash your car during the day, the sun will dry the car and give it a dull finish.

You can also protect your car’s shine by waxing it regularly, which locks in the paint’s natural oils. The wax also protects against staining, which can be especially fatal in the summer when the stain will set in quickly. It’s a good idea to wax your car around twice a year or at the end of every season.

window tinting

Think about tinting those windows

Tinting your windows is an easy way to cool the inside of your car and protect from sun damage. Doing it yourself can be tricky, though, so it might be a good idea to take the plunge and leave it to a professional.

You should also be aware that many states have laws and regulations when it comes to tinting windows. Make sure to do some research beforehand and make sure that tinting your windows won’t lead to a ticket or fine!

“Summerizing” your car is just as important as winterizing it. Your car – and wallet – will thank you for the special attention!