The most important thing to remember when driving in hot weather is to stay cool. Sounds obvious right? But it applies to the car and to you, extending not only to your physical wellbeing but also your state of mind. There are of course, lots of practical things you can also do to cope with hitting the road on a hot summer’s day.
Keep Calm and Drive on
Hot weather can cause lethargy and tiredness, and can also induce impatience leading to road rage and potentially accidents. Resolve to stay calm and level-headed, give way whenever you can and don’t let anyone get to you – including your passengers!
A car parked directly in hot sun can see internal temperatures as high as 90°C. Heat gets in through the windows, but the same glass then holds it in, turning your car into an oven. Try to park in shaded area, but keep in mind that the sun moves; will it still be in the shade when you return?
Use sunshades for both the front and rear windows, as well as screens for the side windows. These will help to reduce internal heat, making it more tolerable to get in and drive. They will also help to protect interior trim and surfaces. If you have remote start, use it to let the car run for a few minutes before you get in (make sure you’ve left the A/C or climate control in the cool setting).
Think about getting window tinting, and they don’t have to be very dark tints either, find the tinting films that come with heat-rejection and UV protection.
Never ever, EVER, leave children or pets in a parked car on their own, they could succumb to heat stroke. Even leaving a window slightly open is not sufficient as temperatures can still soar within the car. Nor is it safe to leave them in a running car for fear of accidental manipulation of controls, or the car could switch off. If you see a young child locked in a parked car in hot weather, call the police!
Heat can be Dangerous!
Dehydration is dangerous. It can cause poor concentration, increased reaction time, dizziness, light-headedness and might even lead to unconsciousness.
Be in no doubt, heat stroke can kill. It can also cause damage to the brain and internal organs. Symptoms include headaches and dizziness; lack of sweating and red, hot and dry skin; weakness and/or cramps; nausea and vomiting; faster heartbeat and rapid breathing; seizures; confusion, disorientation, staggering and of course fainting.
If you suspect someone has heat stroke: call the emergency services or take them to a hospital immediately. Also try to get them into a cool and shaded environment; remove unnecessary clothing; fan air over them and wet their skin; apply ice packs or cool water to the neck, armpits, groin and back.
What to keep in your car
Keep some bottles of water in the car, ideally in a cool box, which is also useful should you go shopping and buy chilled or frozen meat products, as well as dairy products like milk. In a hot car these can go off quickly, and in some cases the resulting stench is almost impossible to eradicate from your vehicle.
Other items to keep in the car include spare sunglasses, a fire extinguisher (ensure you’re familiar with how it works) and a first aid kit. You can buy these in pharmacies, supermarkets, even some petrol stations. Consider including sunscreen, bandages and antiseptic, ice packs or cooling packs, painkillers, antihistamine, thermometer, rehydration salts, paper towels and spare plastic bags.
Do NOT leave the following in your car: plastic items, food including sweets and gum, candles, crayons, lipstick, cleaning solutions and sunscreen bottles (keep them in the boot or use sachets if you must).
Don’t keep any fizzy drinks in the car as heat can affect the taste and consistency of carbonated drinks, and in extreme heat, cans and bottles can explode due to heat creating pressure inside the container. Other containers that can explode include aerosol cans and butane lighters.
Care for the Car
Hot weather puts a lot of extra strain on your car too, putting extra stress on cooling, batteries, tyres and the air conditioning system.
Overheating engines can be a major issue in the Summer, potentially resulting in major repair bills, so ensure there’s a 50:50 mix of coolant and water in the radiator. Check the level by examining the plastic overflow bottle. NEVER open the radiator cap when the engine is hot.
Whilst driving keep an eye on warning lights and the temperature gauge. If it creeps up, try to reduce engine revs and increase the gap between you and the car in front. If this doesn’t help and the needle continues to rise, find a safe place to stop and let the car cool down. If the problem persists consult your mechanic.
If the car overheats, immediately stop in a safe place and turn off the engine. Do NOT open the radiator cap, and do NOT pour water over the engine as this could damage the engine. Call for breakdown services.
Tyres are your crucial contact with the road surface. However, tarmac can get up to 60°C and retains heat even after sunset. Also beware of ‘Bleeding Tar’ when the black top gets so hot that the tar ‘bleeds’ onto the surface and can make it slippery.
At 45°C ambient temperature, a tyre can actually get up to 70°C and at over 60mph it can rise to 110°C – tests have shown that tyres can explode at 130°C.
Regularly check your tyres (look for excessive wear to the thread and also for bumps, blisters and cuts) and ensure they are at the correct pressure (if possible, try to do this when the tyres are cold). Check the tyre manufacture date as older tyres are more likely to fail in hot conditions because rubber degrades over time. Some tyres also show a temperature grade on the sidewall.
Finally, check the air conditioning system. Make sure it blows cold air, if not the refrigerant gas may need charging. You should also get it checked for leaks. Plus it’s a good idea to get the cabin air filter replaced. Keep in mind that an open window will reduce the system’s efficiency and using it will consume extra fuel by as much as 20% in traffic.