The dog days of summer will soon be upon us, high temperatures take their toll on more than just us, they are tough on our cars. Hot days can push your car beyond its limits and leave you stuck on the side of the road. While many people think about preparing their car for winter, most of us never think about getting ready for the summer. A little early preparation can save you the frustration of being stuck on the side of the road.
AAA recommends drivers address five key areas to help their vehicle safely survive high summer temperatures:
1. Cool your Engine
Your car’s engine works extra hard in the summer, and it is the cooling system’s that protects the engine from overheating. In addition, additives in the coolant protect the radiator and internal engine components against wear and corrosion. Without proper maintenance, the potential for engine damage, and overheating, definitely increase.
With time, your engine’s coolant becomes contaminated and its protective properties are depleted. That’s why the system should be maintained periodically as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Most newer coolant formulations are good for at least five years and 50,000 miles. See the owner’s manual or maintenance booklet to determine the service interval appropriate for a vehicle.
Always, make sure the coolant is filled to the proper levels by checking the overflow reservoir. If necessary, top off the reservoir with the correct fluids for your vehicle.
Rubber cooling system parts, like hoses and belts, also are susceptible to wear and tear caused by heat. Inspect hoses and drive belts for cracking, soft spots or other signs of poor condition. Worn parts are more susceptible to failure in hot conditions and should always be replaced.
2. Heat is Tough on Batteries
While many drivers think about their battery in the winter, few of us think about the battery in the heat. Heat and vibration are a battery’s two worst enemies leading to internal breakdown and eventual failure. While you can’t do much about the heat, you can make sure their battery is securely mounted to minimize vibration.
Another problem is faster evaporation of the battery fluid due to heat, leading to corrosion on terminals and connections. Clean all corrosion from the battery terminals and cable clamps, and ensure the clamps are tight.
If a car’s battery is more than 3-4 years old, it’s an always a good idea to have it tested, by your mechanic, to evaluate the life left in your battery.
3. Watch those Tires
Driving under-inflated tires can cause tires to overheat and increase the chances of a tire blowout. This problem becomes worse as road temperatures increase in the summer months.
Over half the cars on the road are reported to have one or more tires that are under inflated. You need to know the proper air pressure and keep your tires inflated. If you don’t know what pressure to put in them, look at your manual.
Tires should be checked after sitting for any length of time, and they should be inflated to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, not the number printed on the tire. Recommended tire pressures can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker normally located on the driver’s door jamb. Watch out because some vehicles use different pressures for the front and rear tires.
4. Cars get Thirsty too.
Fluids are essential to keeping a car’s engine running smooth. Most fluids not only lubricate, they also serve as coolants by helping carry heat away from engine components. When fluid levels are low, the cooling is reduced. You should always check all of the vehicle fluids including transmission fluid, power steering fluid motor oil, and brake fluid to ensure they are filled to the proper levels. If any fluids need to be topped off, be sure to use the type of fluid specified in the owner’s manual.
5. Stay Cool
Maintaining a comfortable driving environment reduces drivers fatigue, which can play an important part in driver safety. During extreme summer heat, a properly operating air conditioning system can be more than just a pleasant convenience. If a car’s air conditioning is not maintaining the interior temperature as well as it did in the past, it may mean the refrigerant level is low. Have the air conditioning system checked by your mechanic.
Many air conditioning systems are equipped with a cabin filter. If present, this filter should be inspected and replaced as needed to ensure maximum airflow and cooling during the hot months.
If all else fails, prepare for the worst.
Even with proper maintenance, breakdowns can still happen. AAA recommends every driver have a well-stocked emergency kit in their vehicle. The kit should include water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, road flares or an emergency beacon, basic hand tools, and a first aid kit.