Can Your Car Handle the Heat?

Arizona is a state known for very high temperatures, and low humidity – how many times have you heard it said that “it’s a dry heat?” Although this affords us a nice lifestyle without  snow and mild winters, it also means we have to deal with a little extra wear and tear on our vehicles – especially in the summer. Now that the weather is starting to cool down, it’s a great time to check your car for any damage that has occurred during the summer, and get it fixed as soon as possible!

One of the first things you should check is your battery. It is well known that extreme heat can shorten battery life. In fact, excessive heat is the most common reason for a battery to die. If you’re curious what exactly happens, research states that “heat causes battery fluid to evaporate, thus damaging the internal structure of the battery. A malfunctioning component in the charging system, usually the voltage regulator, allows too high a charging rate.” Given the above, it is important to check your battery before you end up stranded in a parking lot with a car that won’t start. Almost all service shops offer battery services and can check the battery life for you.

Living in the desert, it is also important to be mindful of greater levels of dust on the roads. Phoenix and Tucson have become accustomed to seasonal dust storms; we experienced quite a few this monsoon season. If your vehicle was left outside during a dust storm, or you were caught in one while driving, it is very likely your car was effected. Dust storms can cause a good deal of damage to your car’s air filters. A little background first: air filters work to keep your car running smoothly on a day-to-day basis. They play a crucial role in your car’s intake system, allowing the engine, essentially, to breath. An engine needs an exact mixture of fuel and air to run, and air enters through the air filter.

If an air filter is neglected, it will get clogged and, over time, not work effectively both in providing the correct amount of air, and in allowing debris and foreign particles to enter the engine. The engine will then “run rich,” which means it is getting too much gas and not enough air. Vehicles in higher temperatures with dust storm frequency should change their air filters more frequently. For those of us living in the desert, it is worth it to consider adding regular air filter maintenance to the routine.

Another important area to check is oil. Oil is extremely important for your car to run properly, thus making regular oil changes a necessity. The oil in your engine protects against corrosion, cools the transmission, and cleans the engine by removing dirt and contaminants. High viscosity oils supply better lubrication to your engine and can be better in extreme heat circumstances. It’s a good idea to check your oil at the end of the summer and see if you are in need of an oil change.

Driving in high-heat conditions can also take a toll on your air conditioning. Air conditioning maintenance service is usually quick and affordable. This service is recommended once a year, and generally should be scheduled for before the hottest driving months hit – if your air conditioning is working great now, you may consider holding off until spring.

Also keep in mind that the fluids in your vehicle might run low more quickly in extreme temperatures, so all fluids should be monitored regularly. Preventative maintenance can save you money, and although it takes time and commitment, it will keep you safe in the long run. Preventative maintenance includes everything from tires, fluids, brakes, battery and cables, filters, belts, hoses, lights, and more.

And lastly, we will leave you with a simple checklist of tips to consider following:

  • Remove winter tires and rotate your tires.
  • Check brakes. Warning signs include grinding, squealing, or screeching.
  • Check wiper blades and wiper fluid.
  • Apply a protectant to any vinyl surfaces like seats and the steering wheel, which can be damaged by the sun and heat.
  • Change oil regularly with one that will work effectively in high temperatures.
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