When The Car Beat the Summer Heat

Temperatures this June hit higher than average on all but three days in parts of the U.S., according to the National Weather Service and The Weather Channel, and this pattern is expected to continue throughout the summer. How can you help your car beat the heat? Here are some tips to keep your car — and your passengers — cool and protected.

Maintenance

Regular maintenance is key to helping your car survive a hot summer. Start under the hood. Look for battery corrosion, as the heat raises the internal temperature of the battery and speeds up corrosion on the terminals. According to research by Interstate Batteries, more than 30 percent of vehicles with batteries 3 years or older experience battery failure, so get older batteries tested by a technician.

Check your vehicle’s fluid levels, particularly the engine oil and coolant. You’ll also want to inspect coolant hoses for wear and tear and look for leaks, which typically develop near hose clamps, the radiator and the water pump. Other levels to check include brake, transmission and power-steering fluids. Taking care of routine maintenance before a trip is a good way to avoid becoming one of the travelers this summer who will need to have their broken-down car towed for repairs, as AAA estimated 3.5 million needed in 2013.

Tires

Driving with properly inflated tires will help reduce the risk of tire blowouts and lengthen their life. An under-inflated tire generates more heat, which adds to already-hot summer temperatures and causes them to wear out quicker.

Consumer Reports and heat transfer experts C, G, & J Inc. recommend checking your vehicle’s tire pressure in the morning or when the tires have been sitting for more than three hours, as tire pressure recommendations are based on the tires being “cold.” Tire pressure can change 1 pound per square inch for every 10-degree change in air temperature. So if the temperature rises 30 degrees during the day, the tire pressure will increase 3 psi.

Keep tires inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended level, which is located on the tire information sticker on the driver’s doorjamb or in the owner’s manual. Make sure to check the tire pressure at least monthly, if not more often, as tires tend to lose 1 psi per month.