It’s hot… but you’re not the only thing feeling the heat. Rising temperatures are not only dangerous for us; they can also wreak havoc on our vehicles.
As the summer heat bears down in the midst of vacation and road trip season, here’s what you can do to help better protect your car on and off of the road.
How to Prevent…
Your tires expand and contract in extreme temperatures. That’s why you find yourself losing more air in the winter and/or having overinflated tires in the summer. In general, you will lose or gain 1 PSI (pound per square inch) for every 10-degree temperature change. This means in the summer you could easily gain over 2 PSI. Not keeping your tires at the right pressure can reduce maneuverability and cause a blowout resulting in an accident.
To avoid tire damage in the summer, check them every few weeks to make sure you have the correct amount of pressure. Proper summer tire inflation will decrease your chances of having an accident, give you a smoother ride, and improve your gas mileage.
It’s better to be safe than sorry- if you are driving to a vacation destination, even if you just checked your tire pressure, be sure to have a spare on you just in case.
While an engine can overheat any time of the year, the summer heat will increase your chances. The high temperature itself, the heat coming off of the asphalt, and the ambient temperature surrounding the engine all play a factor in your engine becoming too hot. Of course, there are other factors that could also cause your engine to overheat including leaks, coolant problems, radiator issues, or even a damaged water pump.
So, how do you keep your engine from overheating? Routine maintenance is key for a healthy engine that can withstand the summer heat. Get regularly scheduled oil changes, frequently check your coolant levels, and replace old belts and hoses.
Unfortunately, sometimes overheating is unavoidable- especially if you have an older engine. And if an overheated engine is not handled properly, it can start a fire or ruin your vehicle. If your vehicle starts to overheat, turn off the A/C and crank up your heat. We know this sounds bizarre in the summer, but it will pull heat away from your engine and give you time to pull over to a safe location. Next, shut off your car for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on your temperature gauge and make sure it starts to drop. If you haven’t already, this is where you will need to check and add your coolant, if needed. Finally, after giving it a few minutes rest, restart your engine and take it to your local mechanic.
Summer temps can also suck the life out of your battery. The heat leads to the evaporation of vital liquids resulting in a weakened charge. This can lead to corrosion which will damage the internal structure of your battery.
A heat-damaged battery won’t last long, especially once winter rolls around. To keep your battery in good working condition during the summer and prevent any weakening, park in the shade, keep your battery clean, limit short trips, avoid using electronics when the engine is off, and make sure your batteries’ heat barrier is still in place.
Watch for signs of your battery failing. If your battery light is on or your engine is slow to start it may be time for a replacement.
The sun can evaporate important fluids in your vehicle, like coolant and brake fluid. Summer heat can also blow a head gasket or cause your gas to vaporize. When gas turns to vapor it increases the pressure in your gas tank and could potentially crack your hose systems. A cracked hose can lower your fuel efficiency, and if a hose were to break it could destroy your engine.
Keep your car in the shade, consistently check fuel levels, replace old hoses and belts, and continue with routine maintenance to decrease your odds of a leak. If you see a puddle, stain, or other types of liquid under your car after it has been sitting, it’s often a sign that you have a fluid leak and your car requires attention.
Other Interior & Exterior Damage
The heat won’t only affect your vehicle under the hood. It can cause fading, cracking, and other damage to your dashboard, seat, and exterior paint. And any one of these could be a costly repair.
Save yourself the money and stress and keep the sun from damaging your vehicle by keeping up with routine maintenance and cleaning, and also avoiding leaving your car in the sun whenever possible.
To protect your interior always
- Park in the shade when you can or use a sun-shield to protect your dash
- Cover your seats and steering wheel with covers to prevent fading and cracking
- Use detailing products to eliminate dust particles that could cause scratches
For the exterior remember to
- Keep your car in the garage or covered when you can
- Wash and dry your car often to get rid of debris that could fade your paint
- Wax your vehicle to give added protection against harmful rays
Stay safe in the heat and keep your vehicle safe too this season. Extend your vehicle’s life for the many summers ahead by following our tips and taking the proper precautions.
For more hot car, myths click here.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.