The recent heat wave has kept AAA emergency roadside assistance crews busy, responding to nearly 1,500 calls a day, a few hundred above average. Also, thanks to the heat, a larger percentage of these calls have required a tow. That’s because the heat leads to more serious failures in vehicle engines, electrical systems and fuel pumps that can’t be fixed easily on the roadside.
While motorists can’t do anything about the heat, they can help prevent these heat-related failures with proper vehicle maintenance.
“Nobody has a crystal ball, but if you follow a maintenance schedule you’re more likely to prevent these heat-related failures,” said Bill Linsenmayer, director of Automotive Services for AAA Ohio Auto Club.
1. Keep an Eye on Vehicle Batteries
Summer’s heat can be harder on a car’s battery than winter’s cold. That’s because, heat degrades a battery’s interior components and shortens battery life. Battery fluid also evaporates more quickly during the summer, which leads to corrosion on terminals and connections.
If a car’s battery is more than three years old, it’s a good idea to have a trained technician test it. AAA Mobile Battery service can come out, test AAA members’ batteries for free and, if necessary, replace bad batteries on location. For more information visit AAA.com/Battery.
2. Maintain Engine Cooling System
When it’s hot outside, engine cooling systems must work extra hard to keep the engine from overheating. Additives in the coolant protect the radiator and internal engine components. Over time, coolant becomes contaminated and these protective additives are depleted, which can lead to long term engine damage.
Periodic cooling system flushing can help prevent damage. A recommended maintenance schedule is located in the vehicle owner’s manual. Between flushes, the coolant reservoir should be filled to the proper level. Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot – boiling coolant under pressure could cause serious burns.
Rubber cooing system components also are susceptible to deterioration caused by extreme heat. Inspect hoses and drive belts for cracking, soft spots or other signs of poor condition. Worn parts are more susceptible to failure.
3. Top off Fluids
Most fluids not only lubricate, but also serve as coolants by carrying heat away from critical components. When fluid levels are low, this cooling effect is reduced, and the possibility of overheating increases. Drivers to should make sure all vehicle fluids are filled to the proper levels. Top off fluids with the type of fluid specified in the owner’s manual.
4. Make Sure Tires are Properly Inflated
Driving on underinflated tires 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, which is why drivers should pay extra attention to their tires during the summer.
Avoid checking tires when the vehicle has recently been driven. Tires should be filled to the pressure recommended in the owner’s manual, not the number on the tire sidewall. It’s also important to inspect the tires for adequate tread depth and any signs of uneven wear that might indicate a suspension or alignment problem.
Just in Case….Be Prepared for Summer Breakdowns
Even with proper preventive maintenance, summer breakdowns can still occur. AAA recommends every driver have an emergency kit in their vehicle, which includes 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.