How To Prepare Your Car For Driving in Extreme Heat
As summer approaches, people are getting ready to take advantage of the warmer weather and clear skies. But rising temperatures can result in a few complications, especially when it comes to driving and keeping your vehicle in good condition. We often hear about driving hazards in snow, ice, and heavy rain, but many drivers are unaware that driving in extreme heat comes with several risks and potential problems.
After the northwest heatwave we experienced during summer of 2021, it’s more important than ever to know how to drive safely and prepare your vehicle to withstand extreme heat. Here are some helpful car tips for summer drivers.
Car Tips To Prepare for Driving in the Summer Heat
One of the best ways to make sure your vehicle is running smoothly is to keep up with regular maintenance, and taking time during seasonal changes for a car check-up is a great way to prepare for all weather conditions and hazards. Here’s a comprehensive summer car-maintenance checklist to get ready for driving in extreme heat.
Test Your Air Conditioning
If you haven’t already done so as part of your spring car maintenance, make sure your AC is functioning before the hot weather rolls in. This is vital to keeping yourself comfortable during weather changes. With PNW winters bringing clouds, endless rain, and even some snow, it’s unlikely that you’ve utilized your AC recently. Even though you may not need it right now, you don’t want to get stuck in a hot car during a long drive and discover a broken AC, so it’s important to get it checked early to make sure you stay comfortable all summer long.
To check that it’s working properly, simply start your car and turn your AC to its highest setting, and take note of the air coming through the vents. If it’s not turning on or is only blowing hot air, this may be a sign that your AC needs to be recharged. In many cases, you can recharge your car AC yourself! Keep in mind that if you see any big leaks, or if the AC won’t turn on at all, the best course of action is to take your vehicle to a mechanic.
Check Your Tire Pressure
As temperatures rise and fall, it can have a significant impact on your tire pressure. In hot weather, the air in your tires will expand, while cold air will cause your tires to lose pressure. Either way, extreme temperatures can lead to wear and tear, inferior vehicle performance, and increased risk of a flat or blowout. In fact, a difference of just 10°F can change your tire pressure by one pound per square inch (PSI).
You should check your tire pressure before you start to see major temperature changes, especially after a long winter that may have reduced your tire pressure over time. You can take your car into a shop to get your tires checked and fixed in the case of low pressure, or you can do it at home with a tire gauge. Most cars will have a sticker on the inside of the driver door that will tell you the recommended PSI for your tires so you can be sure to fill them up to the optimal level.
Check Coolant Levels in Your Radiator
Making sure your engine is functioning at a good operating temperature is vital to keeping your vehicle running smoothly. Extreme temperatures can cause your engine to overheat and cause serious damage to your vehicle’s internal structure. In most cases, a hot engine is the result of a faulty coolant system instead of the engine itself. So checking the coolant levels in your radiator is a good idea, especially before taking those long road trips.
Unless you’re experienced with car maintenance and repairs, testing coolant can be dangerous, especially if your engine is still hot. We recommend taking your car into a maintenance shop to check coolant levels.
Get an Oil Change
No matter the time of year, keeping up with regular oil changes is an important part of owning a personal vehicle. Most newer cars are more oil efficient and will usually require an oil change every 5,000 to 7,000 miles, while older models may need more frequent changes.
Most new models run best on synthetic or hybrid oils; however, if you drive an older car, you may need to rely on a traditional oil that is specifically compatible with your engine. Most older vehicles can still run well on synthetic oil (and even better in some cases) and these oils are often formulated to handle extreme temperature changes.
Heat causes oil to thicken, meaning that if you’re driving in extreme heat you’ll want to use a motor oil with lower viscosity or a multi-viscosity blend. Usually, oils with a viscosity of 10w30 to 10w40 are ideal for extreme heat.
Get your Car Waxed
For many of us, long road trips are a staple of the summer season. But that also means more wear and tear on your car’s exterior. Getting a wax will help keep your paint job looking good as new. Summer is also a great time to get a wax because dry heat will allow the wax to apply and dry more efficiently.
Pack a Summer Emergency Kit
While you should be prepared for car breakdowns all year, when you’re dealing with extreme heat, it’s a good idea to prioritize the things you’ll need to stay cool and comfortable until help arrives. In addition to a first aid kit, a wrench and screwdriver, jumper cables, and a flat tire repair kit, make sure you also pack plenty of water, hats for you and your passengers, sunglasses, and sunscreen to keep you and your family safe and comfortable.
Come to Mackin’s Auto Body For Your Maintenance Needs!
If you’re looking for a quality mechanic for your hot weather maintenance, Mackin’s Auto Body is here to help! Come to one of our nine locations in the PNW or contact us online to get efficient, expert car care from our experienced mechanics.