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Prepare your car for extreme summer heat

By | June 24, 2015


With the dog days of summer upon us, high temperatures can take their toll on people, animals and even our vehicles. Extreme heat can push a vehicle past its limits and some drivers will find themselves stranded at the roadside because of it.

Here are five safety tips from the AAA to help vehicle owners safely survive high summer temperatures.

  1. Heat zaps the life from batteries:

    A potential summer problem is faster evaporation of the battery fluid, leading to corrosion on terminals and connections. Clean any corrosive build up from the battery terminals and cable clamps, and ensure the clamps are tight enough that they will not move. If a car’s battery is more than three years old, it’s a good idea to have it tested by a trained technician to determine how much longer it will last.


  2. Keep your engine cool:

    Automobile engines work extra hard in the summer, and it is the cooling system’s job to protect the engine from overheating. In addition, additives in the coolant protect the radiator and internal engine components against wear and corrosion. Without proper cooling system maintenance, the odds of long term engine damage, and a summer time boil over, definitely increase. Over time, engine coolant becomes contaminated and its protective additives are depleted. Coolant systems should be flushed and the coolant replaced periodically as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.


  3. Avoid excessive heat where the rubber meets the road:

    Driving on under-inflated tires not only affects the handling and braking of a vehicle, it also can cause tires to overheat and increase the likelihood of a blowout. This problem becomes even more of a concern when road temperatures are extremely high. Tires should be inflated to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer – not the number molded into the tire sidewall. While checking the tire pressures – including the spare – drivers also should inspect the tire treads for adequate depth and any signs of uneven wear indicating a suspension or alignment problem.


  4. Cars need fluids during extreme heat:

    Engine fluids are essential to keeping a vehicle running smoothly. Most fluids not only lubricate, they also serve as coolants by helping carry heat away from critical components. When fluid levels are low, this cooling effect is reduced, and the possibility of overheating increases. Drivers should check all vehicle fluids including motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid to ensure they are filled to the appropriate levels. If any fluids need to be topped off, be sure to use the type of fluid specified in the owner’s manual.


  5. Cool passengers are happy passengers:

    Maintaining a comfortable driving environment reduces fatigue, which can play an important part in driver alertness and vehicle safety. During extreme summer heat, a properly operating air conditioning system can be more than just a pleasant convenience. If a car’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 or there is another problem. Have the air conditioning system checked by a certified technician.

While many of the maintenance tasks to prepare a car for extreme summer heat are relatively simple and can be performed by the average driver, some are best left to a trained automotive technician.

Even with proper preventive maintenance, summer breakdowns can still occur, so AAA recommends every driver have a well-stocked emergency kit in their vehicle. The kit should include water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, road flares or an emergency beacon, basic hand tools and a first aid kit.

To learn more about car safety, visit the AAA website at or contact the Joint Base San Antonio Fire Prevention Division offices at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, 221-2727; at JBSA-Lackland, 671-2921; or at JBSA-Randolph, 652-6915.

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