Driving In The Heat: 5 Tips For Summer

Road trip on historic U.S. Route 66 (Images: Antony Ingram)

Summer is the time when many families embark on a long-awaited vacation by car, but it’s also the season when temperatures outside can skyrocket, climbing into the triple digits and potentially wreaking havoc on vehicles. Since prevention is the best protection you can afford your vehicle, here are five tips for driving in the summer heat.

Keep oil and fluids full. Your vehicle’s moving parts need lubrication in many different areas. To give your car its best chance of continuing to operate efficiently in extreme summer temperatures, make sure to keep all fluids at their recommended levels. This includes:

  • Ensuring there’s sufficient coolant to prevent the engine and radiator from overheating. Follow maintenance recommendations listed in your owner’s manual.
  • Getting regular oil changes. Consider using synthetic oil during the summer – it’s good for high temperatures and provides added protection when towing. Changing the oil filter will help your car’s engine endure the stress of summertime heat.
  • Keeping the windshield wiper fluid reservoir full so that you’ll have a good view of the road in a summer downpour. While you’re at it, check the wiper blades to make sure they’re not cracked or worn. If they are, replace them.
  • Also check the brake and power steering fluid and fill as necessary.
  • Since air conditioning is almost a necessity during hot summer days, have your dealership technician check the A/C system to ensure there’s sufficient refrigerant and everything’s working properly.

Check tire pressure. Before you set out on a trip, take the time to check the pressure in all tires. By keeping tires properly inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended levels, you may be able to improve gas mileage by up to three percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Check tire pressure in the morning to ensure you get a cold pressure reading (that’s the level referenced in your vehicle’s owner’s manual).

MORE: See How To Check Tire Pressure

Use cruise control. When traveling on highways, make use of cruise control to maintain a constant speed. Experts say that, in most cases, this will help improve fuel economy.

Avoid idling. Making a quick stop to pick up a beverage or while the kids run into the restroom? Don’t keep the car running. It wastes gas. While it may seem counter-intuitive, the truth is that less gas is required to restart your car than allowing it to idle.

Park in a shady spot. No one enjoys climbing back into a brutally hot car. Keep the family happy and cool by picking out a shady spot to park when you stop to eat, shop, or take in the sights. The sun is like a giant zapper – it sucks out fuel from your gas tank. By parking in the shade (or a garage), will lessen the amount of evaporative emissions from your car.

Bottom line: Taking precautions with your car before you head out on the open road will help make the trip more enjoyable and safe for the entire family.


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