Five Ways to Help Your Car Survive the Summer Heat

September 27, 2013 Updated Jul 13, 2011 at 11:58 AM EDT

By WKBW News

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Five Ways to Help Your Car Survive the Summer Heat

September 27, 2013 Updated Jul 13, 2011 at 11:58 AM EDT

Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- With consistently higher temperatures in the forecast, the heat can take its toll on people, animals and motor vehicles.

Extreme heat can push a vehicle past its limits and some drivers will find themselves stranded on the roadside as a result of improper maintenance.

“While many drivers know the importance of readying their vehicle for the freezing winter months, many forget about the need to prepare for the heat in the summer,” said Vern Martell, Manager of AAA Car Care Plus in Clarence. “Extreme heat can take its toll on vehicle components, but taking preventive maintenance steps can help keep your vehicle running smoothly during the summer months.”

AAA Car Care Plus recommends drivers address these five areas to help their vehicles beat the heat:

1. Protect your battery.

High temps can negatively impact your car’s battery even more than the bitter cold. Heat and vibration are a battery’s worst enemies leading to internal breakdown and failure. A potential problem is faster evaporation of the battery fluid, leading to corrosion on terminals and connections. Properly clean any corrosive build up from the battery terminals and cables clamps, and ensure the clamps are tight enough that they will not move.

Drivers should also be sure their battery is securely mounted in place to minimize vibration. If a car’s battery is more than three years old, it’s a good idea to have it tested by a Certified Trained Technician to determine if it is still performing effectively and will not fail in the near future.

2. Keep your engine cool.

Improper cooling system maintenance can lead to boil over and long-term damage. Your engine works extra hard in the summer and it’s the cooling system’s job to protect it from overheating. Over time engine coolant becomes contaminated and its protective additives are depleted. Make sure the coolant is filled to the proper level by checking the overflow reservoir. If necessary, top off the reservoir with a 50/50 mix of water and the coolant type specified by the vehicle manufacturer.

If more than a cup of fluid is needed to top off the reservoir have a Certified Trained Technician pressure check your cooling system for internal and external leaks. Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot – boiling coolant under pressure can cause serious burns.

3. Avoid under-inflated tires.

Driving on under-inflated tires not only affects the handling and braking of a vehicle, it also can cause overheating; increasing the likelihood of a blowout. This problem becomes even more of a concern when road temperatures are extremely high. Tires should be checked when the car has not been driven recently, and they should be inflated to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer — not the number molded into the tire sidewall.

Recommended tire pressures can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker normally located on the driver’s door jamb. Consider filling your tires with Nitrogen, as it keeps the tires cooler, especially over long trips.

4. Keep your vehicle hydrated.

Engine fluids are essential to keeping a vehicle running smoothly. Fluids lubricate and serve as additional coolant by helping carry heat away from critical components. When fluid levels are low, the cooling effects are reduced and the possibility of overheating increases.

Drivers should check all vehicle fluids including motor oil, transmission fluid, and power steering fluid to ensure they are filled to the appropriate levels. If any fluids need to be topped off, make sure to use the type of fluid specified in the owner’s manual. If your brake fluid is low, it’s an indication of worn pads and or shoes. AAA Car Care Plus recommends having a free brake inspection completed by Certified Trained Technician to ensure your safety.

5. Check your A/C.

Maintaining a comfortable driving environment reduces fatigue and plays an important role in driver attention and vehicle safety. During extreme summer heat, a properly operating air conditioning system can mean more than just a pleasant ride. If your vehicle’s air conditioning is not maintaining the interior temperature as well as it did in the past, it may mean the refrigerant level is low.

Many automotive climate control systems today are equipped with a cabin filter that prevents outside debris from entering. If present, this filter should be inspected and replaced as needed to ensure maximum airflow and cooling during the summer months.