This summer has been sweltering. The unrelenting heat has made it challenging to keep cool and even threatened our electrical grid. It is no wonder that our customers have been asking us if summer heat can affect their vehicles.
The answer is yes!
These hot temperatures put additional wear and tear on your cars. That is why more vehicles break down when there is a heat wave. Breakdowns in high temperatures come with risks. It can be dangerous to wait for help in the high heat. Plus, wait times for emergency help can be longer because of high demand.
You can avoid breakdowns through summer vehicle maintenance. It is not too late for this seasonal maintenance. While the start of school may be just around the corner, we have not even entered the hottest part of the year.
Extreme heat harms your car for many of the same reasons it hurts people. The heat causes fluids to evaporate. It makes air circulation more difficult. As a result, every system in the car works harder. Without proper maintenance, that can lead to breakdowns.
Let us take a closer look at your vehicle’s components to understand how high heat impacts them.
Batteries in The Summer
Although batteries are closed systems, they depend on proper fluid levels to function correctly. Extreme heat can evaporate the fluid in your batteries. When that happens, it encourages corrosion inside the battery. High temps can also impact the chemical processes in your battery. Batteries often lose charge in higher temps. They may also struggle to produce enough power.
Fuel System in The Summer
If your car is not starting, you might assume it is the battery. However, problems with your fuel system can also keep your car from starting. If your engine gets too hot, the fuel has problems circulating. That can impact engine performance and even keep your vehicle from starting.
Summer heat can also lead to fuel leaks. When it is hot enough outside, your fuel turns to vapor. The vapor can evaporate and leak out. If there is a crack in any hose in your fuel line, vaporized gas can escape, even when liquid does not. That can impact your gas mileage. It is also potentially dangerous. If your check engine light appears, have it checked out immediately.
Coolant System in The Summer
High heat impacts your coolant in multiple ways. First, high temps evaporate coolant faster than usual. Second, high temps mean your cooling system has to remove more heat. If you have any problems with your cooling system, your vehicle could overheat. An overheated car is annoying, requiring you to pull over as soon as it is safely possible so you do not damage your vehicle. Driving an overheated car can lead to severe problems, including a “cracked” radiator or engine.
To understand this, you need to know how your cooling system works. First, do you have a liquid-cooled or air-cooled system? Most newer cars are liquid-cooled. However, some older vehicles and most motorcycles use air-cooled systems.
A water pump circulates coolant inside the engine block and heads. A thermostat controls the temperature. The radiator’s job is to cool the coolant to the right temperature. The radiator cap controls the cooling system’s pressure. Various hoses move the coolant to and from the radiator and the engine. Your car’s heater is connected to this system and uses hot coolant to heat the vehicle. That is why turning on your heater if you see that your car is about to overheat may help you get to where you can pull over safely.
The radiator cools the coolant through a combination of surface area and exposure to the outside air. The hotter it is outside, the less, the hotter the coolant will remain. That generally increases the likelihood of overheating. Leaks exacerbate this problem.
Flushing the coolant is also essential. As antifreeze ages, it loses its anti-corrosive properties and can even become acidic. That increases the wear-and-tear on your system. It also increases the likelihood of deposits. Fresh coolant has added lubricants that help prevent corrosion. A coolant flush can help keep your cooling system running correctly if you have an older vehicle.
If you notice any of the following signs, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so:
- Your temperature gauge is rising to the warning zone.
- Steam coming from under your hood.
- A sound like a boiling pot.
If you do pull over, exercise caution. While you can put coolant into your system to drive to safety, you must be careful! Opening a hot radiator can expose you to steam burns. Also, pouring cold water or coolant into an overheated radiator can crack your radiator. You need to wait for the system to cool before taking action.
Engine Oil in The Summer
Extreme temperatures impact engine oil. Your vehicle’s engine is already scorching especially high-performance engines. So, oil and synthetic oil usually handle high heat. However, extreme heat can deplete engine additives, create deposits, and increase oil consumption. You may consider synthetic oil, especially if you have an older vehicle.
Tires in The Summer
You probably already know that temperature changes impact tire pressure. These changes in pressure are rarely uniform, leading to uneven wear. That can shorten the life of the tire. Some people think that underinflating the tires is the solution. However, underinflated tires can overheat, which leads to dangerous blowouts. Extreme temperatures increase that risk.
When we inspect your tires, we do more than look at wear and tear. Even new tires can be hazardous if underinflated. So, we check your inflation. We suggest you check your tire pressure, especially when temperatures change. Maintaining proper tire pressure is one of the easiest things you can do to ensure your vehicle is safe.
While you may not need AC to run your car, you need it to drive comfortably in this heat. High temps do not cause AC problems. However, unless your vehicle’s AC is in tip-top shape, it may struggle to cool you on these 100+ days. The hotter it is outside, the harder your AC has to work. The harder your AC works, the more strain it puts on the rest of your vehicle’s systems.
Let Us Maintain Your Vehicle
Getting regular maintenance can help you avoid these summer struggles. We suggest getting your vehicle inspected at the start of the summer to prevent these problems. During that inspection, we can recommend specific maintenance for your car.