The heat is on. While humans can take measures against menacing temperatures, cars need a little help from their friends. With the dog days of August upon us, you might want to pay some attention to your ride.
Heat is more brutal on cars than extremely cold temperatures because automotive systems are designed for operating temperatures that are cooler, says the American Automobile Association (AAA) website. But here are some tips to help your car keep its cool.
Batteries: If a car's battery is more than three years old, have it tested by a trained technician to determine its effectiveness and longevity.
Keep engine cool: Engines work extra hard in hot weather and the cooling system helps protect it from overheating. Without regular cooling system maintenance there is more likelihood of long-term engine damage and a summertime, stuck-on-the-highway-shoulder overhead. Engine coolant can become contaminated as it ages, and its protective additives become depleted. Make sure your system is flushed and the coolant replaced as recommended by the manufacturer.
Check tire inflation: Driving on under-inflated tires can not only affect handling and braking, it can also cause tires to overheat -- and increase the possibility of a blowout, a problem aggravated by extremely high road temperatures. According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, 85 percent of drivers do not know how to properly inflate their tires. Check tires when the car has not been driven recently and is cool, and inflate to the pressure recommended by the manufacturer.
Your car gets thirsty, too. Just as water keeps your body engine running, engine fluids are essential to keeping a car running smoothly. Most fluids lubricate as well as serve as coolants by carrying heat away from critical components. But when fluid levels are low the cooling effect is reduced and the possibility of overheating increases. Check all fluids -- motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid -- to ensure they are filled to appropriate levels.
Just as importantly: keep your cool. Driving in a comfortable environment reduces fatigue, which plays a critical role in driver alertness and overall safety.