It’s hot outside. As the summer temperatures rise, people, pets, and even our cars can be affected by the heat. Though an overheating car is not as common as it used to be, drivers still get stranded on the side of the road from a car malfunctioning from the heat.
While random overheating problems still occur, most vehicle overheating problems can be avoided with a few preventative measures.
Get a new battery.
Even though drivers notice more failing batteries in the winter, summer heat is harder on car batteries than the cold of winter. The heat and humidity of summer causes battery fluid to evaporate, damaging the internal parts of the battery.
If the battery is more than three years old or if the car is slow to start, doesn’t start, or starts rough, have the battery checked. Batteries typically fail between 3-5 years of age.
Monitor fluid leaks.
The primary reason for fewer overheating engines is the advancements in vehicle cooling systems. One of the signs of a failing cooling system component is a coolant leak. Monitor your vehicle for coolant leaks by placing a piece of cardboard under the car whenever parked. Some water drips are normal, especially when the car’s air conditioning system has been running. A red or green fluid leak should cause concern, however, as this is a sign of a coolant leak. Refill the coolant and schedule an appointment with a mechanic to inspect the cooling system. (An oil leak should also be a cause for concern; contact a mechanic to inspect the car.)
Fill the coolant.
Coolant is one of the most important parts of the cooling system, so it should be filled up and ready for summer. Ideally, a 50/50 mixture of coolant and water should be used; some coolant comes pre-mixed while others come in a concentrated form ideal for the winter temperatures. If filling coolant at home, do not tackle the task while the engine is hot. This can cause burns. (Use this video on how to fill engine coolant.) The coolant system should be flushed on average every 30,000 miles (contact a mechanic to get an appointment); the exact intervals are different for every vehicle and can be found in the owner’s manual.
Watch the gauges.
Cars are manufactured with dashboard warning lights and gauges for a reason; monitor them carefully. If the gauges creep into the high range, pull over and let the engine cool before starting it up again. Mention the incident to a mechanic, or, if it happens often, make an appointment as soon as possible to get the cooling system inspected.