Wheels getting too hot? How to help your car handle summer heat

The extreme heat we’re seeing isn’t just hard on the body, it can also be tough on your car. And if you're not prepared, it can take a bite out of your wallet.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The extreme heat we’re seeing isn’t just hard on the body, it can also be tough on your car.

Cars can overheat, and that can leave drivers with a big problem, but AAA and a local mechanic shared some advice on how drivers can protect their vehicles from the summer heat.

AAA said they experience more car trouble calls in the summer months due to rising temperatures because as the mercury rises, so does the risk for dead batteries, blown tires and faulty air conditioners.

Get your battery tested

Most batteries last three to five years, but each day of extreme weather pushes a battery closer to its end.

Slow “stutter” starts are often signs that a battery is weakening.

Aaron Nelson with Aaron’s Car Care says he’s already seeing it with his customers.

“Had a call this morning, same thing. A guy said yesterday afternoon it started up, but it just didn’t start like normal. It drug, just a little bit slow,” Nelson said. “He ran by, we checked in, and sure enough, the battery failed to test.”

Should the battery need replacement, replace it before it dies or a AAA Roadside Service technician can replace it.

Watch the temperature

Cars can be more vulnerable to overheating in the summer, that’s why you should always keep an eye on your car’s temperature.

“That is the death of the car. That’s almost as bad as running it without oil. If you get one that really overheats, sitting in traffic or what have you, being stuck in traffic and the temp starts going over 300 on the gauge... try to get off the road and let the car cool down,” Nelson said.

The car temperature gauge is displayed on the dashboard.

Nelson said to make sure your car has plenty of coolant. Without it, the engine could overheat.

Ensure your tires are properly inflated

Driving on under-inflated tires reduces fuel economy and causes overheating, increasing the likelihood of a blowout. This problem becomes even more of a concern when road temperatures are extremely high.

“The air pressure is going to increase in the heat. Just like in cold weather, it would decrease,” Nelson said.

Check your tire pressure once a month

Inflate tires to manufacturer specifications, which are listed on the decal, normally located on the driver’s doorjamb. Also, inspect the tire treads for adequate depth and any signs of uneven wear that might indicate inflation, suspension or alignment problems. It’s always a good idea to check your pressure before any road trips as well.

Check your fluids

When fluids are low, the possibility of overheating increases. Drivers should check all vehicle fluids including motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid to ensure they are filled to the appropriate levels. If any fluids need to be topped off, be sure to use the type of fluid specified in the owner’s manual.

AAA also suggests being prepared for breakdown by keeping a well-stocked emergency kit including a cellphone charger, water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, road flares or an emergency beacon, basic hand tools and a first aid kit.

AAA suggests drivers keep a emergency kit in their vehicles. (AAA)

It’s also a good idea to have a roadside rescue plan in place. Ensure your AAA membership is active and your plan is suitable for your needs and the distance you plan to travel. Roadside assistance is available to members on the AAA mobile app.

Don’t wait until it’s too late

Nelson said if anything seems off about your car, you shouldn’t wait to get it checked out.

If you know you’re going to be doing a lot of driving this summer, take your car in to the shop. Have the mechanic make sure none of the hoses are swollen. He also said it’s a good idea to check your spare tires. He said 8 out of 10 spare tires are flat because they don’t get checked.

If you’re a AAA member, you can receive a free multi-point vehicle inspection and a 10% discount on labor on regularly priced services at any AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility.

Visit AAA.com/AutoRepair to find the nearest location.


About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.