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August 3, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Protecting Your Car in the Summer Heat

The busy travel season is beginning to slow down as the kids get ready to go back to school, but the summer heat doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. So even though you may not have any more long road trips planned, keep in mind the summer heat is hard on your car and you need to make sure it’s serviced properly.

You know when you’re outside in the summer time how much harder your body has to work in order to keep you cool? Well that’s also true for your car as it has to work harder to keep everything cool as the heat puts more stress on the engine and can even wear down your tires. Hopefully you’ve already been keeping up with your car’s maintenance, but with the excessive heat expected across the Southern Plains and Southeast the next several days it wouldn’t hurt to double-check a few things.

It’s always a good idea to check the levels of all of your fluids. You want to make sure you have enough refrigerant in your car and that it’s not running low because this could cause your air conditioner to malfunction. This definitely would not be a good thing to happen on a hot summer day.


Be sure to check your cars fluids. Image: autotips.plentycar.com

Hot weather can also be very hard on your car battery, so make sure it continues to run smoothly. Keep it clean as corroded battery terminals can prevent it from running its best. You can even make a paste of baking soda and water to clean it off.

A battery that needs to be cleaned. Image: www.secondchancegarage.com

A clean battery. Image: www.secondchancegarage.com

Ask yourself this, how often do you find yourself sitting in traffic on a hot summer day? Well here in Houston that’s pretty much every day for me. Did you know your car can quickly overheat just sitting in traffic? I personally know this can happen because it happened to me about two months ago. My car overheated while I was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and my car just started smoking and eventually just quit. After I panicked for a few minutes, I called a tow truck and they took my car to a local dealership. Come to find out it was my radiator. Of course this is a part of the coolant system and any problems with it can cause your car to overheat and break down. Be sure to check your coolant levels, hoses, belts and radiator to make sure everything is working properly and nothing is broken or missing.

Me and my poor car that overheated. Image: Lauren Whisenhunt

A relatively inexpensive thing you should do about ever 12,000 miles is to replace your air filter. When your air filter becomes clogged it can lower your fuel efficiency. In this day and age when the gas averages $2.74 a gallon, any way we can cut back on costs helps.

This next tip you should actually do year round and that’s changing your oil and replacing your oil filter. I usually take my car in every 3,000 miles or about every 3 months to get my oil changed. Be sure and check your oil before you head out on a long trip to make sure it’s not running low and it should be a brownish-yellow color. If it’s a darker color that means you probably need an oil change.

These are just a few tips to keep in mind during the summer months and how you can protect your car in the heat. The last thing I’ll mention is to check your tire pressure regularly as tire pressure does change with the rising temperatures. According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, the inflation pressure in a tire goes up in warm weather 1-2 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change.

With all these tips in mind, would your car be ready for a road trip tomorrow? I bet a few of you might be scratching your head. Well take a look at the forecast the next few days and then maybe you can answer (see below).

Highlighted areas in orange indicate the excessive heat expected across the Southern Plains and Southeast. The areas in red indicate the potential for isolated severe storms. Image: ImpactWeather

The hot and humid weather will persist the next several days across the Southern Plains and Southeast with highs in the upper 90’s/low 100’s and heat index values between 105-115ºF. Temperatures in Dallas today could climb to near 105ºF, Oklahoma City near 103ºF, Tulsa near 105ºF, Memphis near 103ºF and Kansas City near 102ºF.

On Wednesday, the excessive heat (orange) will continue across the Southern Plains, MS Valley and Southeast with high in the upper 90’s to low 100’s. Heat index values will be between 105-112ºF.

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