Keep Your Car Cool.
Although we're only partway through, the summer of 2021 has been a hot one already. With record-breaking heat waves in multiple parts of the country, you naturally might be wondering how the heat can affect your car's different systems. If you were one of the many people who held off on routine car maintenance during 2020, this information can be even more topical.
Here are the different ways that extreme heat can affect your car, along with its implications for your maintenance timeline.
AAA actually receives more calls for battery failure during summer months than winter ones. This is because intense heat can kill a battery significantly faster than the cold can—sometimes as much as 33% faster! Batteries will normally last 3-5 years, which means you should at least be mindful of your battery's health if it's at least a year old.
If you park your car outside during the winter, then this is especially true. Prolonged exposure to cold weather can weaken a battery's internal systems and therefore make it even more susceptible to heat. Given the cold winter that we experienced earlier this year, it's better to be safe than sorry. After all, it's better to discover potential battery problems at a garage instead of on a busy highway.
Your tire pressure can change depending on the temperature, widening the margins in which things can go wrong while driving. During cold weather, tires can contract slightly whereas hot weather can cause them to expand. In either way, this can cause uneven wear—shortening the life of a tire. In addition to wearing out faster, uneven tire wear also increases your car's risk of sliding or hydroplaning.
While you can't always avoid the damage caused to your tires by the weather, you can prevent it from causing an accident. Approximately once a month, check the pressure and tread depth in your tires. An easy way to do the latter is to administer the penny test by taking a penny and pushing it upside in your tread. If you can see the top of Abraham Lincoln's head, then your treads are worn down and should be replaced in the immediate future.
Many of the different belts that keep your car running are made out of rubber polymers, which means they can be affected by extreme heat. After enough exposure, they'll start to dry out and crack, putting them at risk of breaking if stressed too much. This is especially important for your drive belt, as your vehicle will be completely crippled if it breaks.
During hotter months, you should always keep your fluids topped off. This includes not just your motor oil, but your transmission fluid, brake fluid, and coolant fluid too. During extreme heat, there are several different ways in which these fluids can be compromised. As you'll generally want to know that you're low on coolant BEFORE your engine overheats, it's a good idea to stay on top of these systems.
Checking radiator fluid, in particular, is rather straightforward—just remove the cap and give it a quick sniff. If it has a burnt smell, it's time to take it into a garage to get checked out. This is especially important to do before making any road trips. Having your engine overheat is already an unpleasant experience—having it happen on a deserted roadway is even worse.
When in doubt, it's never a bad idea to get an expert opinion. The cost of getting a garage to look at any potential hiccups in your car is consistently going to be less expensive than the cost of dealing with things breaking.
Are you planning any exciting road trips this summer? Sound off in the comments.