Regular maintenance can help your car beat the heat

During the summer, we rely on air conditioning, swimming pools and comfortable clothing to stay cool. But what about our cars? Heat waves take a toll on them, too. Here are some tips for getting your car through the summer.
Cooling system
A vehicle is a complex machine that relies on certain conditions to work well -- and long drives in high temperatures make your car's cooling system work hard, according to the Automotive Service Association (ASA). Engines get hot because of the added pressure of lengthy trips and the demand for air conditioning. If your cooling system isn't working well, your car could overheat, according to ASA.
ASA recommends checking out your cooling system during the spring. You or your mechanic should do the following:
  • Fill your coolant tank to the recommended levels, and flush the cooling system if the coolant appears contaminated.
  • Use the specific mix of coolant recommended in your owner's manual.
  • Examine radiator hoses, drive belts and fan blades for signs of wear and tear. Replace these parts if necessary. Heat under the hood can accelerate the damage and leave you stranded during a summer road trip if they fail to function.
Summer is just as tough on your car's battery as winter is, according to AAA. The organization recommends doing the following to help your car make it through the summer:
  • Check your battery to be sure it's secured to its housing and that it's stationary during driving. Vibration can increase wear on the battery, and along with high heat, the battery can fail under this kind of pressure
  • When the temperature outside is 90 degrees, it's 140 degrees under the hood, according to AAA. Heat can make battery fluid evaporate. So cool it on extras like GPS systems, satellite radios and portable DVD players, which only add to the stress. And have your battery tested by a mechanic if it's more than 3 years old.
There's no ice on the road in the summer, but the heat adds its own dangers. According to AAA, drivers should do the following:
  • Check the tire treads. Making sure the treads are the correct depth can keep your car steady on wet roads if you find yourself driving in a summer storm.
  • Inflate tires to their optimal level (check your owner's manual). If your tires are under-inflated, they're more prone to overheating and blowouts. Blowouts are even more likely when the roads are hot. Don't forget to properly inflate the spare as well.
Safety tips
Hot cars can pose dangers to people and pets, too. Consumer Reports provides these tips for avoiding injury:
  • Park in the shade or use a sun shade to keep heat from building up in the car.
  • Never leave children or pets in the car unattended.
  • Crack open the windows if you're in a safe area.
  • Leave doors or windows open for a few minutes when entering a vehicle that has been in the sun for several hours.
  • Avoid contact with hot metal or hard parts like seat belt buckles, the steering wheel and vinyl upholstery.

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