How you can prepare your car to withstand extreme summer temperatures
By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
With a heat wave currently building across much of the United States - and many locations expected to break heat records - experts warn that heat-related illnesses and fatalities are more likely to occur. As many Americans are taking measures to protect themselves from the intense July heat, one thing they may not think to watch is their car.
While it is widely known that extreme cold can impact your car, many may overlook the potential impacts that extreme heat can have on their vehicle.
AAA Repair Systems Manager David Bennett spoke with AccuWeather Broadcast Meteorologist Laura Velasquez on the AccuWeather Network about the impacts of extreme heat on cars and the ways that you can reduce the impacts.
AAA expects to respond to about 8 million road service events this summer, Bennett said.
They urge people to properly prepare their car for the warmer months. This includes following the vehicle's standard maintenance schedule, which can be found in the vehicle's owner's manual.
"One thing to specifically pay attention to would be the vehicle warning lights, the dash lights," Bennett said to Velasquez.
Bennett said to think of those as a traffic light, where green means all clear, where yellow means caution and that somebody needs to take a look at it, and where red could mean that the engine is overheating in this heat.
If the lights are red then you should turn on your hazard lights, get your vehicle to safe location and turn your vehicle off as soon as you can. Turning off your vehicle will help to prevent further damage.
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Other safety care tips include keeping your engine cool, preparing your battery for high temperatures, being prepared for summer breakdowns, making sure fluids are at proper levels and keeping your tires properly inflated.
As for tire pressure, there is nothing different that you need to do differently in extreme heat.
"AAA recommends that you check your tire pressure monthly and then you follow what the manufacturer recommends," Bennett said.
To check tire pressure in most vehicles, you should look on the door jamb, open the driver's side door and find the placard, which will indicate the proper pressure.
"Make sure that all four of your tires are properly inflated. But also don't forget the spare tire, make sure that your spare tire, if the vehicle comes equipped with it, has the proper inflation," Bennett said.
If your vehicle does not have a spare tire, understand how to use the inflation kit if your vehicle comes with one. If you do not have a spare tire or inflation kit, you will need to call for service.
During the wintertime, experts recommend keeping an emergency supply kit stashed in your vehicle in case of an emergency, such as your vehicle breaking down in the cold. It is just as important that you have a supply kit in the summer, though the items may differ.
"One of the biggest things you probably need to add to your emergency kit is a couple of extra bottles of water," Bennett said. "Maybe some extra energy bars or something to snack on, as you wait for service or as you're just waiting on the roadside."
The outdoor heat can also increase interior car temperatures to potentially deadly levels. Each year, hot cars are responsible for an average of 37 deaths across the United States.
Sunlight shines into a closed vehicle, heats up the interior and then this heat stays trapped by the glass and can’t escape. This can occur even if the windows are partially cracked open.
In as little as 10 minutes, the inside of a car can heat up by 20 degrees Fahrenheit and become deadly, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2018, over 50 children died of vehicular heat stroke in cars across the nation. The NHTSA recommends following eight simple steps to prevent child heatstroke deaths.
Already, 21 children have died in hot cars so for this year, according to kidsandcars.org.
The number of hot car deaths spikes in the summer months, but being in a locked up vehicle can be fatal at any time of year. Hot car deaths are possible even with outside temperatures in the 50s, 60s and 70s F.
For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.
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