No driver wants to be the one behind the wheel of that vehicle on the traffic report that broke down and is blocking a lane on the busiest highway at the worst time of the day.
If you’re hot during the heatwave, consider how the scorching temperatures are affecting your vehicle. Forecasts call for temperatures to feel like it is over 100 degrees this weekend.
Extreme heat can be just as bad as extreme cold for your vehicle, especially when it comes to overheated cooling systems and dead batteries, AAA experts said.
During the heat, drivers should double check their cars before taking a summer road trip or even doing the daily commute, when extreme, prolonged heat waves are forecast, AAA experts said.
While car batteries are under the greatest strain in cold weather, a prolonged heat wave also takes a toll on them. Between June and July, battery problems were the third highest reason AAA MidAtlantic members in New Jersey called for road service, said Tracy Noble, a AAA spokeswoman.
Drivers should have their vehicle batteries tested when they turn three-years-old, and annually after that, she said. Age also takes a toll on battery’s available power to start the engine.
“Heat can affect a vehicle’s battery, but it has to be extreme and prolonged. I’ve heard that batteries in Phoenix last only 18 months, due to the heat,” said Robert Sinclair, a AAA Northeast spokesman. “In more temperate climates, batteries last an average of three to five years.”
A vehicle’s cooling system also must be in good condition to deal with excessive heat, Sinclair said. That’s done by having the radiator flushed and filled every three to five years with a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze/coolant, he said.
Doing that improves the cooling system’s ability to protect against high temperatures in summer and low temperatures in winter, Sinclair said. The fresh coolant mixture also protects against rust accumulating inside engine passages that could cause a blockage and lead to chronic overheating, he said.
Overheating can be very damaging to motors with aluminum engine blocks and cylinder heads. If it does overheat, never remove a radiator cap until the engine has fully cooled to avoid being burned, Noble said.
Drivers also should check radiator and heater hoses, which can be weakened by the stress of excessive heat and age. Hoses can develop soft spots that can lead to bursting, Sinclair said.
“Drivers should be mindful of such things during the road trips common to summer,” Sinclair said. “The stress of a long road trip can lead to problems that might not show up during the slow slog in traffic of the daily commute.”
Tires also need attention, because an under-inflated tire can overheat and fail, Noble said. Drivers should check the air pressure before driving and also look at the tires to spot any bulges, cuts or uneven wear, she said.
In case the worst happens, drivers should keep an emergency kit in the 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. Don’t forget to keep your phone charged.
And, check out these tips for how to keep yourself safe during the heat wave.
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