Drivers know that winter weather and dropping temperatures mean that your vehicle will require additional care to assure it runs smoothly and dependably. What many drivers may not realize is that scorching summer temperatures can also take a serious toll on your car. To avoid the risk of being stranded, motorists should keep in mind that extreme heat means that vehicles need some extra attention.
According to a recent heat wave recap from AAA Mid-Atlantic, more than 9,000 stranded Philadelphia drivers had to be serviced within a seven day period. 40 percent of those calls for assistance were due to dead car batteries and flat tires that resulted from the heat.
In addition the dangers and inconvenience of being stranded, drivers need to be mindful of the detrimental effects extreme heat can have on the vehicle itself. Driving with an overheated engine can compromise engine components and cause serious damage requiring expensive repairs.
AAA advises all motorists living and driving in areas experiencing extreme heat to take extra precautions by following these preventative maintenance tips:
- Batteries – Heat ruins batteries. Have your battery tested to be sure it is strong enough to endure the punishing summer temperatures.
- Tires – Soft, under-inflated tires generate heat, which can result in a blowout. Keep your tires inflated to the pressure recommended for your vehicle.
- Fluids – Check all fluids including the coolant level in the overflow tank and top off as needed. The fluid level in the radiator should be checked as well, however, NEVER remove the radiator cap when the engine is HOT, as this can result in serious injury. Always perform your vehicle’s preventive fluid checks while the engine is cool.
- Coolant – Drivers should have the cooling system flushed and new coolant installed when recommended by the vehicle manufacturer as part of scheduled maintenance. Depending on the type of coolant used, this is usually required every two to five years.
Your car’s engine works hard to convert fuel into mechanical energy, and in the process creates a substantial amount of heat. To manage that heat, your vehicle has its own cooling system that assures your engine stays cool enough to function properly. Engine overheating is a dangerous situation that can quickly put you and your passengers in peril, and put your car at risk for expensive damage. When the engine exceeds 230 degrees Fahrenheit, is overheated, and at temperatures above 245 degrees Fahrenheit, engine damage may result. As the heat increases, the different rates of thermal expansion cause metal to distort.
Keep your vehicle’s cooling system working properly to avoid overheating. These components should be checked on a regular basis:
Coolant – Anti-freeze and coolant are critical to your car’s heating and cooling system. Having the coolant flushes performed per your owner’s manual recommendation is extremely important in assuring your engine runs clean and cool.
Radiator – Have your radiator inspected to be sure it is in good condition, and that the radiator core has not been damaged by salt corrosion. Another issue to watch for is a plugged radiator core. This problem can happen when coolant flushes are not performed.
Cooling Fans – A cooling fan failure can lead to engine overheating problems. In some cases, trouble with the air conditioning system can be a sign that you have a cooling fan problem. Cooling fans should be regularly inspected to avoid engine problems.
Thermostat – There is no set mileage that predicts when it will fail, but when it does, it’s important to replace it as soon as possible. A bad thermostat is a common cause of engine overheating. A failing thermostat can also be indicated by the check engine light illuminating or the car heater not working.
Water Pump – A compromised water pump will often cause a coolant leak, so if you notice the coolant level dropping at a faster rate, you should have it checked as soon as possible. An experienced auto technician will be able to spot a water pump that is about to fail.
Belts and Hoses – The belts and hoses in your cooling system should be inspected to make sure they are tight and in good condition. Cracks or deterioration of the rubber are signs of trouble.