FLORHAM PARK—With continued high temperatures predicted for our area, AAA reminds motorists that heat can take its toll on vehicles. Extreme heat can push a vehicle past its limits, and once again this year, some drivers may find themselves stranded at the roadside because of it.
“Many drivers think about the importance of readying their vehicle for cold weather in winter, but it’s important to not forget about preparing for the hot summer months,” said Jeff Santana, manager of the AAA Car Care Center in Springfield. “Summer’s heat can take its toll on vehicle components, but a few preventative maintenance steps can help keep your vehicle run smoothly.”
AAA recommends addressing five key areas to help vehicles safely survive high summer temperatures:
Heat can zap the life from batteries
Many drivers think battery problems occur primarily in the winter, but summer heat can negatively impact a car’s battery even more. Heat and vibration are a battery’s two worst enemies and can lead to internal breakdown and eventual failure. You can’t do much about the heat, but you can make sure your battery is securely mounted in place to minimize vibration.
Summer heat also causes battery fluid to evaporate faster, which can lead to corrosion on terminals and connections. Have your battery checked and any corrosive build-up from the battery terminals and cable clamps cleaned. Also ensure that clamps are tight enough that they won’t move.
If your vehicle’s battery is more than three years old, it’s a good idea to have it inspected by a trained technician. This test can be performed at the AAA Car Care Center in Springfield or AAA members can request a AAA Mobile Battery Service technician come to them and test their battery free of charge. If needed, battery replacement can be done on site.
Keep your engine cool
Engines have to work extra hard in the summer and it’s the cooling system’s job to protect the engine from overheating. Additives in engine coolant protect the radiator and internal engine components against wear and corrosion. Proper cooling system maintenance will decrease the odds of a summertime problem or long-term engine damage.
Over time, engine coolant becomes contaminated and its protective additives are depleted. The coolant system should be flushed and filled with fresh coolant periodically as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Follow the recommended service interval schedule in your owner’s manual.
Between flushes, make sure coolant is filled to the proper levels 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. Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot—boiling coolant under pressure could cause serious burns. Also have hoses and belts inspected for cracking, soft spots or other signs of poor condition.
Avoid excessive heat where rubber meets the road
Driving on under-inflated tires not only affects the handling and braking of a vehicle, it can also cause tires to overheat and increase the likelihood of a blowout. This 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, which you can find in the owner’s manual or on the driver’s side doorjamb—not the number molded into the tire sidewall.
While checking tire pressures (don’t forget the spare), also inspect the tire treads for adequate depth and any signs of uneven wear that might indicate a suspension or alignment problem.
Cars need fluids during extreme heat too
Engine fluids are essential to keeping your vehicle running smoothly. Most fluids not only lubricate but 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. Have all vehicle fluids—motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid—to ensure they are filled to the appropriate levels.
Cool passengers are happy passengers
Maintaining a comfortable driving environment reduces fatigue, which plays an important role in driver awareness and vehicle safety. A properly operating air conditioning system can be more than just a pleasant convenience. If your car’s air conditioning doesn’t seem as cool as it used to, it could mean the refrigerant level is low or there is another problem. Have the air conditioning system checked by a certified technician.
Many vehicle climate control systems today are equipped with a cabin air filter that prevents outside debris from entering. If your vehicle has one, have the filter inspected and replaced as needed to ensure maximum airflow and cooling during the summer months.
Just in case…be prepared for summer breakdowns
Even with preventative maintenance, summer breakdowns can still occur. AAA recommends having a well-stock emergency kit in your vehicle. The kit should include water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, road flares, basic hand tools and a first aid kit.
While many maintenance tasks mentioned above are relatively simple and can be performed by the average driver, some are best left to a trained automotive technician. Motorists can visit the AAA Car Care Center in Springfield for a free vehicle trip check—a multi-point inspection of the vehicle that includes the items listed here. Log on to AAA.com/CarCare or call 1-973-467-2651 to make an appointment. Motorists on-the-go can look for AAA Approved Automotive Repair facilities. These shops must meet and maintain high professional standards for training, equipment, cleanliness and customer service. Look for the AAA Approved Auto Repair sign at local auto repair shops or search for facilities nearby and along the way at AAA.com/Repair.
The AAA New Jersey Automobile Club, headquartered in Florham Park, provides automotive, travel, insurance, financial and educational services to residents of Essex, Morris and Union counties.
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