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How to Keep your Car Cool in Summer Heat

broken down car
(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

We’re about halfway through summer, and many areas of the country are experiencing oppressive heat and humidity, with temperatures in the upper 90s and heat indexes of more than 100 degrees. Getting into a vehicle that’s been sitting in the sun can feel like stepping into a sauna, especially if your seats, shifter and steering wheel are painfully hot to the touch. Just as you need to stay cool in extreme heat, so does your car. These simple tips will help your car survive the summer heat.

Check your fluids

Your engine coolant, or antifreeze, keeps your engine from overheating. Wait until your car’s engine has cooled down, and check to make sure you have enough antifreeze in the reservoir, and add more if needed. Most coolant reservoirs have a fill-to line for both hot and cold engines, so make sure you don’t add too much antifreeze, either.

“For summer driving, coolant should be added as a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water,” HowStuffWorks explains. “You can even buy premixed coolant so you don't have to bother with the measurements. If you see a small puddle of coolant under your car when it's been parked for a while, then you have a coolant leak.”

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Check your oil too, especially if you’re going to take a long road trip for your family summer vacation, and add more if needed. If you’re not sure how to check any of your fluids, consult your owner’s manual, or take a quick trip down to your local mechanic and let them take care of everything. Make sure you ask them to check all your fluids, and replenish any that are low. While you’re there, have them take a look at your tires and brakes as well.     

Inspect your tires

Tire air pressure fluctuates with air temperature, so on a hot day, your tires could have too much air, while on a cooler day, they may not have enough. “An under-inflated tire bulges outward and puts undo pressure on the sidewalls of the tire,” HowStuffWorks reports. “With enough heat and pressure, that tire eventually will blow. An over-inflated tire, on the other hand, makes less contact with the road and can lead to hydroplaning in wet conditions.”

Check your tire pressure after your car has been parked for a while. To find the proper pressure, look at the sticker inside your car’s door jamb or check your owner’s manual.

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Replace worn belts, hoses and windshield wipers

Extreme temperatures wear out rubber and plastic parts like hoses, belts and wiper blades faster than normal, so take a few minutes and see if yours are cracked, broken or worn out. About.com suggests getting new wiper blades at the start of the summer season, as cold weather can be just as damaging as hot weather. “Winter weather can be brutal to your windshield wipers, making them almost useless if you get caught in a summer rain shower.”

Check your battery

It’s not just cold winter weather that can put a strain on your vehicle’s battery. Very hot weather can also cause damage to your car’s battery. The Car Care Council explains, “Heat causes battery fluid to evaporate, which then damages the internal structure of the battery.”

If you haven’t replaced your battery in a few years and haven’t had it inspected in a while, head over to your local repair shop or parts store and have them check it to make sure it has enough juice to get your car started during these hot summer months. The Car Care Council also suggests that you clean dirty or corroded battery terminals. “Dirt can become a conductor, which drains battery power. If corrosion accumulates on battery terminals, it becomes an insulator and inhibits the current flow.”

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Your car loves the shade as much as you do

When it’s 100 degrees outside, you probably head for a shady spot out of the direct sun. Parking in the shade and using a windshield sunshade to reflect sunlight will help keep your car cool. If you know it’s not going to rain, crack the windows and moonroof so heat can escape. If you’re getting into a car that’s been baking in the sun, open the windows to allow the trapped heat to escape, which will also make your air conditioner’s job easier.

Don’t forget to wash your car more often in the summer months, as bird droppings and tree sap can bake onto your car’s paint and leave marks.

With these easy maintenance tips, your car will be able to beat the summer heat.  

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