High Temps, High Driving Risk: How Sedans Survive the Sizzle

You know the drill. Extreme heat poses a life-threatening risk to children, pets, and any being trapped inside of a boiling car during the torrid weather. But few motorists are alert to the full extent of the detrimental effect that a heatwave can have on the experience of a motorist, even one made oblivious to the climbing mercury by a large frosted fast-food beverage and a rather powerful air conditioning setup.

This year, America has experienced one of the hottest summers since records of weather were able to be kept. Fifteen states have received official heat advisories in the face of triple digit temperatures predicted to remain for weeks on end. It’s essential to arm yourself, and your vehicle, to somehow escape this spell of hellish heat. September and soothing autumn are soon to arrive. Here are tips to support your bid in successfully battling these overheated dog days.

Parking Tips

Courtesy of Flickr.

Naturally, the best recommendation is to station your car in a spot as fully drenched with shade as possible. Tough luck accomplishing this midday, however, when every perfectly shaded spot you drive by has been filled. What to do, then, when forced to take up a spot in full sun? Be sure to have purchased a pair of folding sunshades, which you can place in the windshield and in the rear seat window. Feel free to prop open your windows a tad if the threat of theft or vandalism is low. And take advantage of a sunroof, if you have one — keeping it in “tilt” can allow for aeration and a subsequently lower interior temperature when you return to the vehicle.

The Battery

Well-seasoned drivers understand that battery trouble can result in either of the two extreme seasons — both the winter and the summer. Between the two, it’s the summer and its heatwaves which can permanently mangle a battery beyond repair. Overheating, and the extreme vibration which can follow, may destroy the battery from the inside out. Ensure your battery is correctly mounted to stave off excess vibrating and you’ve thwarted one of these two foes. Battery fluid can also evaporate too quickly in heat, and insufficient lubrication may result in corroded compartments in the battery itself.

Consider testing your battery’s lifespan before journeying any major distance in heat. And as a safety measure, promptly remove buildup on the battery’s clamps and terminals, and make sure those clamps are taut and tight.

Tires

Straight, no chaser — extreme heat murders tires. As the temperature climbs, so does the tires’ pressure, increasing the odds that your wheels will experience irreparable damage on the road. Tight turns, high freeway speeds, and heavy braking during high heat only further exasperate these round rubber essentials. Substantially more motorists have experienced tire blowouts as a consequence of the heatwave.

Thanks to SaferCar.gov.

What is more, tires are not all equally equipped to grapple with sweltering asphalt. Heat ratings for tires range from A to C, with an “A” rating indicative of tires that are the most resistant to high temperatures.

To stave off such a threat, drivers should — as they should throughout the entire year — maintain optimum air pressure in their cars’ tires, and check for this more frequently in great heat. Re-inflating them once monthly should do the trick. Examining the four for deeply worn treads and cracks, as well as the manufacture date (and replacing too-old tires), is also obligatory.

The Engine

The headquarters of your car’s power should also be its coolest spot. Make sure that your engine’s cooling system has been fully flushed out and replenished, as often as your manufacturer would recommend. The heat can also cause key parts in the cooling system to wear down more quickly than is normal; taking a regular look-see at the drive belts and hoses for their condition is a highly advised step.

Tip for dummies: avoid handling the radiator cap on a hot engine. Heat causes coolant to boil, and removing that cap on a real scorcher can leave you with piercing burns.

Via Flickr.

Equally important as the cooling system are the manifold engine fluids that ensure proper lubrication and offer additional coolant action: the transmission fluid, braking fluid, power steer fluid, and — unforgettably — the motor oil. Paltry levels of these fluids can actually increase the heat in the engine. It should be obvious that maintaining proper levels of the fluids is key. Change them a few tads more frequently in inclement summer weather.

Regarding the motor oil in particular, you may consider temporarily using one of a higher viscosity than the standard 5W30 that is otherwise suitable. The more viscous (or thicker) the oil, the more easily it will maintain its consistency, prolonging its lubricant effect on the engine.

Safety in the Face of a Breakdown

Know a good Girl Scout? The time’s come to imitate her, applying her never-failing preparedness to the road. Ensure that you’ve already packed a properly furnished emergency road kit in the trunk – a coat hanger (to prop open a detached muffler), jumper cables, vise grips, a screwdriver, road flares, pliers, a truly ready-to-go spare tire (or two), and two extra quarts of that higher-viscosity oil.

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4 Responses to High Temps, High Driving Risk: How Sedans Survive the Sizzle

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