Summer heat is great for some things in life – lounging by the sea, working on your tan and having barbeques in between – but rest assured that your car does not share the sentiment. Especially if left in the scorching sun. Most drivers are aware that cold weather affects cars and that they should prepare their vehicles for winter weather every year, but rare are those who do the same when it comes to summer. Mind you, summer heat can be a formidable adversary to every vehicle, so drivers must be diligent in preparing their cars for surviving the summer heat. Here is how to do that.
1) Make sure the battery has enough water and no corrosion
It is assumed by most drivers that winter is the worst possible season on the car battery. The truth is – summer is even worse! We have touched upon that in our infographic from last week where we showcased 5 ways hot weather affects your car. For instance, car batteries contain water and acid and require both liquids in certain amounts in order to have enough amperage to start vehicles. If their levels drop – as can happen in the summer heat – lead plates in batteries are left dry and exposed making the batteries useless. The heat can also cause corrosion build-up, a problem stemming from vibration damage, which can lead to connection issues.
Make sure to find a shade for parking your car in the summer heat, so as to avoid battery liquid evaporation in extremely high temperatures. Also, be certain that there is no corrosion on the terminals, as well as that the battery is mounted firmly and securely to minimize vibrations in the future.
2) Keep the engine cool
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that cars heat while working – especially those with the internal combustion engine. Generally speaking, ICEs are most efficient at approximately 93 °C (200 °F), but that can also mean that if not cooled down promptly and correctly, moving metal parts of the engine can start to melt and fuse together resulting in car breaking down and needing a serious repair job. That is why there is a cooling system with a series of pumps, hoses, thermostats and fans coupled with a chemical coolant – antifreeze – to keep the engine at the optimal running temperature. However, that also means that if any of the parts in the system are malfunctioning – low coolant level, cracked or softened hose, loose or broken belt, radiator leak or loose or missing radiator cap – it may cause your vehicle to overheat and break down.
Once in a while, but more frequently during the summer, pop the hood of your car and make sure there is enough coolant in there. Not only that, generally speaking, you should flush your radiator with a special fluid that cleans the inside of the radiator of the debris and build-up and add fresh coolant at least every 2 years. The summer recipe for coolant mixture is 50% antifreeze and 50% water, but you can always just buy the premixed coolant if you are out of time, patience or skillset to deal with the measurements. Also check under the car for coolant leaks if your car has been parked in the sun for long periods of time, and if you spot one, take your car to your trusted mechanic for a system check-up.
3) Check if tire pressure is optimal
Tires may seem as something that can be overlooked during summer as there is so much hype about wet or slippery driving conditions during the other seasons (which is just one of the reasons you need winter tires), but summer heat has a big influence on tire health. With temperatures rising, so does the pressure inside your car’s tires: approximately 1-2 PSI for every 10 degrees the outside temperature rises. Furthermore, every major fluctuation in the pressure level of your tires can build upon their wears and tears and well as any alignment issues potentially making summer driving a dangerous affair. For example, an under-inflated tire will bulge outward and put pressure on the sidewalls of the tire, which will make braking nearly impossible and is bound to blow if exposed to enough heat and pressure. On the other hand, over-inflated tires have “a looser grip” on the asphalt and can cause you to slide right through a wet patch of the road.
So, you need to regularly check the pressure in your tires, not only in those mounted on your vehicle, but the spare one as well! Or just leave that to your mechanic to do when he checks your tire alignment and tread depth.
4) Top off the fluids
Coolant level aside, all the other fluids in the car also need to be checked regularly – and you can even do it yourself! During the summer, make a habit of checking all vehicle fluids including motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid and making sure they are filled to the appropriate levels (as instructed in the car’s manual) and that there are no leaks. Moreover, while checking the oil level, you need to pay special attention to its appearance as well. Oil’s normal color should be brownish yellow and clean on the stick with which you’ve checked its level. If the oil is dark in color or if there’s a lot of dirt and grime in it, then you definitely need an oil change and oil filter replacement.
5) Maintain the car A/C
The air conditioning unit in your car is there for more than just convenience. Yes, everyone likes to be able to get away from the summer heat wherever and however possible, but a properly functioning car A/C also helps you driving. Not only does it help cool down your automotive machine in its entirety, but it also plays a big part in keeping the driving alert while actively participating in traffic.
The best way to tell if your car’s A/C is not functioning as it should is if it can’t generate or maintain air temperatures that are 10 °C (50 °F) below the ambient outside air temperature. There is a number of possible causes of such a malfunction, such as compressor not engaging, refrigerant leaking, broken or blocked condenser, electrical failure or blend door not closing properly. Be advised that modern car A/C systems are complex, so it’s best to have yours checked out a by a professional and have them tell you why your car A/C system blows warm air and resolve the problem.
Next week you will read about how to survive driving a car with no A/C in the heat.
Until then, if you have a sneaking suspicion that the summer heat has affected your car after reading this article, come to our repair shops in Hamilton and Stoney Creek today and let us take care of your automotive pet. We are expecting you!