Driving in the summer can be a delight, with warm evenings, trips to the seaside, and convertibles finally coming into their own. Unfortunately, warmer weather and holidays can also bring traffic jams and mechanical problems. As well as issues caused by the heat itself, driving longer distances for holiday travel can make existing problems worse, causing a breakdown at the most inconvenient time.
Most of us are aware of how to take care of a vehicle in winter weather, but safe summer driving also requires maintenance. Both new and used cars can suffer in the heat, with warnings from the motor trade that the heatwave is likely to bring increased numbers of breakdowns.
Traffic jams can be harmful to your car, as well as annoying. Low speeds with lots of stops and starts, in high temperatures, can create wear and tear on the engine, and increase consumption of oil and fluids.
Oil is vital for the health of your engine. Modern oils are designed to perform across a wide range of winter and summer temperatures, so there’s no need to use different grades of oil for different seasons, but it is important to change the oil regularly and keep it topped up.
It’s important to keep an eye on coolant levels since coolant will evaporate more quickly in the heat. Don’t rely on dashboard warning lights to tell you something’s wrong but make the checks yourself. Even the water in batteries can start to evaporate in high temperatures, leading to failure later.
Hot brakes can suffer potentially dangerous brake fade, while hot tyres become worn more quickly and are more likely to suffer a puncture.
If possible, try to travel in the early morning or at night, when the temperature is lower and the roads less crowded, especially if you have children with you. You may well have a quicker, more enjoyable journey, and you’ll cut down on the extra fuel consumption caused by evaporation.
Just as it’s a good idea to keep hot drinks and warm clothes in the car for winter emergencies, carry plenty of drinking water in summer as an insurance policy, in case you do end up stuck in traffic or stranded at the side of the road.
Air conditioning has made modern cars more pleasant to travel in when outside temperatures soar, but your car’s interior will heat up a great deal while it’s parked.
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Interior trim and other plastics can become warped or faded after exposure to sunlight and hot temperatures, especially in older cars.
High temperatures make gases expand, meaning that aerosol cans and fizzy drinks may explode. Disposable lighters also contain gas, creating another potential danger. Even bottled water can be hazardous, since studies have shown that chemicals used in plastic bottle manufacture can be released into the water when warmed.
If you can find a parking space in the shade, grab it to make returning to your vehicle a more pleasant experience all round. Finally, this shouldn’t need saying, but never, never leave dogs or other pets unattended in a parked car during hot weather.