With the dog days of summer upon us, high temperatures can take their toll on people, animals, and even cars. Extreme heat can push a vehicle past its limits and once again, this year some drivers will find themselves stranded at the roadside as a result. We recommend drivers address five key areas of their vehicle to help safely survive high temperatures:
1. Heat can zap the life from batteries
Most drivers think battery problems occur primarily in winter, but summer heat can negatively impact a car’s battery even more than the bitter cold of winter. Heat and vibration are a battery’s two worst enemies leading to internal breakdown and eventual failure. While drivers cannot do much about the heat, they can make sure their battery is securely mounted in place to minimize vibration.
Another potential summer problem is faster evaporation of the battery fluid, leading to corrosion on terminals and connections. Clean any corrosive build-up from the battery terminals and cable clamps, and ensure the clamps are tight enough so they will not move.
If a car’s battery is more than three years old, it’s a good idea to have it tested by a trained technician to determine how much longer it will last. This test can be performed at our facility. Our technicians can also arrange for a Mobile Battery Service technician to test their battery, free of charge. Should the battery need replacement, the technician can usually replace it on location.
2. Keep your engine cool
Automobile engines work extra hard in the summer, and it is the cooling system’s job to protect the engine from overheating. In addition, additives in the coolant protect the radiator and internal engine components against wear and corrosion. Without proper cooling system maintenance, the odds of long term engine damage, and a summer time boil over, definitely increase.
Over time, engine coolant becomes contaminated and its protective additives are depleted. That’s why the system should be flushed and the coolant replaced periodically as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Older coolants used to require changing every two years or 24,000 miles, but most modern 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 your vehicle.
Between flushes, make sure the coolant is filled to the proper levels by checking the overflow reservoir. If necessary, top off the reservoir with the proper mix of water and the coolant type specified by the vehicle manufacturer in the owner’s manual. CAUTION: Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot; boiling coolant under pressure could cause serious burns.
Rubber cooling system components are also susceptible to deterioration caused by extreme 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 be replaced.
3. Avoid excessive heat where the rubber meets the road
Driving on under-inflated tires not only affects the handling and braking of a vehicle, it can also cause tires to overheat and increase the likelihood of a blowout. This problem becomes even more of a concern when road temperatures are extremely high.
More than half the vehicles on the road were found to have at least one under-inflated tire, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association. It’s also been reported that 85 percent of motorists do not know how to properly inflate their tires.
Tires should be checked when a car has not been driven, and they should be inflated to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, not the number molded into the tire sidewall. Manufacturer recommended tire pressures can be found on a sticker normally located on the driver’s door jamb, inside the glove-box, or inside the fuel filler flap. If the tires on your vehicle are not the tires originally provided with the vehicle , please contact the current tire manufacturer for the recommended tire pressure. Some vehicles use different pressures for the front and rear tires.
While checking the tire pressures—including the spare—drivers should also inspect the tire treads for adequate depth and any signs of uneven wear that might indicate a suspension or alignment problem.
4. Cars need fluids during extreme heat
Engine fluids are essential to keep a vehicle running smoothly. Most fluids not only lubricate, they also serve as coolants by helping carry heat away from critical components. When fluid levels are low, this cooling effect is reduced, and the possibility of overheating increases. Drivers should check all vehicle fluids including motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid to ensure they are filled to the appropriate levels. If any fluids need to be topped off, be sure to use the type of fluid specified in the owner’s manual. If you have to top off any of your vehicles fluids repeatedly, this may indicate a problem. Promptly have your vehicle inspected and repaired as necessary. Failure to do so could lead to additional repairs or an unplanned breakdown.
5. Cool passengers are happy passengers
Maintaining a comfortable driving environment reduces fatigue, which can play an important part in driver alertness and vehicle 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 or there is another problem. Have the air conditioning system checked by a certified technician.
Many automotive climate control systems today are equipped with a cabin filter that prevents outside debris from entering. If present, this filter should be inspected and replaced as needed to ensure maximum airflow and cooling during the summer months.
Just in case, be prepared for summer breakdowns
Even with proper preventive maintenance, summer breakdowns can still occur, so we recommend 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, coolant, and a first aid kit.
While many of the maintenance tasks to prepare a car for extreme summer heat are relatively simple and can be performed by the average driver, some are best left to a trained automotive technician. We offer a free public service to assist motorists seeking a qualified auto repair facility that they can trust to work on their vehicle. Our facility meet stringent professional standards and maintain an ongoing customer satisfaction rating of 90 percent or better.