Summer is still a long way off, but much of the western U.S. is seeing record warmth, with temperatures soaring into the 80s and 90s. Here’s how extreme heat can take a toll on your car—and what you can do to minimize the damage.
Battery. Car batteries are prone to problems in winter temperatures, but extreme heat can do some serious damage too. While the cold slows down the chemical reaction that gets your car started, the heat accelerates your battery’s chemical operation and evaporates battery fluid, causing a faster burnout. And as your battery fluid evaporates, it can cause corrosion on terminals and connections. Make sure to regularly get your battery tested, and clean any corrosive material with a solvent of water and baking soda.
Fluids. You should keep an eye on your car’s fluids all throughout the year, but it’s especially important in extreme heat, as fluids carry heat away from critical components. Be sure to monitor your coolant, motor oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and power steering fluid when temperatures rise.
Tires. Normally, the heat generated by your tires—caused by rolling resistance and friction—doesn’t endanger the performance of your vehicle. On blistering summer days, however, the pavement can be 10-15 degrees hotter than the air, putting extra stress on tires that are already damaged. To avoid a blowout, keep an eye out for cracks, uneven wear, bulges, and other signs of damage, and have a professional inspect your tires each time you get your oil changed.
In addition, make sure to check your tire pressure regularly, and fill up according to the guidelines on the label inside the driver’s side door. Under-inflated tires generate even more heat, increasing the risk of a blowout.
Belts and hoses. Exposure to sky-high temperatures can create cracks in belts and hoses, which can cause your radiator to fail or your engine to overheat. The damage can be difficult to spot, so make sure to get your belts and hoses inspected by a professional on a regular basis.
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