Are you escaping the Irish ‘summer’ and heading somewhere warm and sunny on a road trip? Well, lucky you – send us a postcard. But, before you go, have a read of our top tips for driving in hot climates, as they may help prevent you and your car from having a meltdown.
Be prepared: having a car breakdown or personal meltdown outside in the heat is no fun, so make sure you keep a sun hat, sunglasses, sun cream, cold drinks and some snacks in a coolbox or freezer bag in the car. However, if you follow these tips, you should have a stress free drive.
Wear sunscreen: one of the main personal hazards of summer driving is sunburn. Although car windscreens have a plastic layer that blocks out all UVB rays, it only blocks out 80 per cent of UVA rays – the rays that cause skin damage. So, follow Baz Luhrmann’s advice and wear sunscreen, especially on your hands.
Use sunshades: when parked in direct sunlight place a sunshade over the windscreen as this reflects light so the car interior doesn’t get so hot. Place sun shades on the rear side windows too and protect your passengers – cool passengers are happy passengers – stopping regularly for ice cream also helps!
Change windscreen wipers: but it’s not going to rain we hear you say! Well, that may be true but if you’re going somewhere hot and driving long distances bugs and insects on the windscreen can be quite a problem. Wiper blades can crack and become ineffective in hot weather and after a harsh winter. Natural-rubber blades have a shelf life of about one year so consider fitting a new set before you head away. Whilst you’re at it, top up the windscreen washer bottle with a good screen wash to keep the windows spic-and-span and bug free. Also it helps with a topic we’ve written about previously – driving with sun glare
Check air conditioning: if the car has air conditioning, check that it’s ice cold. If it’s not working as well as it used to it may need a refrigerant top-up. It’s worth re-iterating, if your passengers are all hot and bothered – especially if you’re travelling with young kids you’re asking for trouble! If the air is smelly, you probably need to change the pollen filter or to clean the matrix with a dedicated air-con cleaner.
Check the air filter: see if the air filter needs changing. Take it out and if it looks quite dirty, then it’s worth changing. It isn’t an expensive component. The engine needs an unrestricted supply of air to work efficiently.
Check battery fluid: in hot weather, fluid evaporates quicker so if you have a serviceable wet cell battery, check fluid levels and if needed top up. If you have a maintenance free battery check it for any cracks or leaks and consider replacing it if more than five years old.
Top up oil levels: or even better, get an oil change before you go. Oil is not only an engine lubricant but a coolant too – the cleaner the oil the cooler the engine. Sometimes, on older higher-mileage cars, it is a good idea to switch to a high viscosity oil when driving in excessive temperatures e.g. 5W-30 to 10W-40, even switching to synthetic motor oil will help as it’s more effective at high temperature protection than natural or semi-synthetic oils. Read more about different oil grades here.
Top up coolant: check the car’s engine cooling system but make sure you do this when the engine is cold. Low coolant levels can cause the engine to overheat. Coolant is a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze. Don’t use only water; you need the antifreeze as this raises the boiling point of the coolant and also prevents corrosion.
If the car does over heat do not open the radiator cap while the car is hot. The coolant will be extremely hot and pressurised and may spray scalding steam if opened. Wait until the radiator has cooled before opening.
Properly inflate tyres: under-inflated tyres are subject to excessive friction, which causes heat; if conditions are already hot, under-inflated tyres are even more likely to fail. That said, be careful of over-inflated tyres as well. Air expands with heat, so slightly over-inflated tyres can become dangerously over-inflated in hot weather and could result in a blowout, so you should always carry a properly inflated spare tyre.
If you do have a blowout, pull over into a safe spot and change your tyre. Don’t know how to change a tyre? Don’t worry we have a few tips on that too – check out our latest video
Why not save yourself that hassle and get the car serviced before you go? Just tell the mechanic that you are going to be driving in high temperatures and let them do the work whilst you plan your route and ice cream stops.