Summer is officially here in America, and looking at one national weather report for summer 2016, it’s likely to get very hot. Average temperatures vary depending on where you live, but the overall message is that North America is going to experience above-average temperatures across the board. This is especially true in the East, and the heat in Southern California is made worse by the ongoing drought. The only places that look to experience normal temperatures are Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, which benefit from warm ocean tides and exceptional cloud cover to retain moisture and block heat.
Increased heat, unfortunately, almost always means the same sad stories, year after year. Children, pets and your vehicle are at risk in the elements, which ultimately puts you at risk, as well. (Ever had your air conditioning go out in the middle of the desert?) Most of the time, these calamities are avoidable. Take a look at the things you can do to have a happier, safer and more productive summer.
Pets, Kids and Cars: “I’m just going in for a minute”
Sometimes we mean to just leave our car for a minute or two, but there’s a line at the check-out. You see someone you know. Time passes. We all know better than to leave pets or kids in the car for extended periods of time, but sometimes those little life errands get in the way, and yes, it saves us considerable time to just leave dogs and kids in the car. But consider this: in just 20 minutes, internal car temperature can rise 30°F and continues to increase internally for about an hour. That means after an hour on a REALLY hot 95°F day, the temperature inside your vehicle can reach an incredible 140°F. These are deadly conditions. If your child needs to be with you when you do your errands, bring him or her inside the store with you. Here’s a rule you can use, and don’t make exceptions: if you’re leaving your car for longer than it takes you to withdraw money from an ATM, leave your pet at home.
|Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature v. Elapsed Time|
|Elapsed time||Outside Air Temperature (F)|
|> 1 hour||115||120||125||130||135||140|
Courtesy Jan Null, CCM; Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University
Radiators have an awful tendency to overheat in the summer, which means cars are breaking down and people are left stranded in physically (and emotionally) uncomfortable situations. Your radiator should be flushed regularly (every two years or so) and filled with coolant according to your vehicle manufacturer’s specifications.
You can also check your temperature gauge when you’re on the road. If it “goes into the red,” turn off your A/C and blast your heat as high as you can. This sounds miserable, but it can prevent engine death and buy you enough time to get to a professional shop. Until you make it to a professional, roll your windows down and keep calm. There’s nothing more dangerous than a driver who’s losing control of his or her emotions on the road.
Speaking of coolant, the hoses through which your coolant flows need to be checked for cracks and leaks. Soft/spongy hoses are a sign of damage, and these hoses should be replaced as soon as possible before they fail.
Oil is a lubricant for your vehicle and cools down moving parts that have a tendency to get hot. When it gets hot this summer, make sure your oil is fresh and filled to the right levels. Get your oil changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles if you want to keep your car running well, especially in heat.
Batteries and severe weather, both hot and cold, do not mix. Every three years, it’s wise to examine your battery see if it’s up to snuff. If you see signs of corrosion, take care of the situation quickly.
Air conditioning systems, especially in older vehicles whose systems aren’t as sharp as they once were, are prone to failure when subject to high temperatures. Air filters need to be periodically replaced and refrigerant needs to be maintained. Hint: if you’re taking a country-country trip this summer, don’t be caught trying to make it through Death Valley—or some other hot location—or anywhere, really—with an old car, unless you make sure its A/C system is fully functional. In fact, if you’re going on a big trip, a tune-up is always a smart idea.
Your tire tread is literally what connects you to the road, so it’s crucial that your tires are inflated and the tread isn’t worn down. In hot conditions, low-pressure tires may briefly experience a pressure increase, which can disguise the real problem. Check your tire pressure monthly, as blowouts are dangerous and all-too-common during the summer months.
Your wiper blades can corrode in the heat, which makes them less effective when it rains. Replace them if they need to be replaced—a lot of people skimp on this one.
Last of all, keep a safety kit in your vehicle at all times. Consider keeping a supply of water, dry food, jumper cables, a spare tire, car jack/stand, flashlight/extra batteries, first-aid kit, etc. You never know when you might need any of the above items. Whatever your plans, please be smart this summer when you’re on the road. Be safe out there and have some fun.