Urgent Hot Weather Automotive Safety Tips
According to The Weather Channel, above-average temperatures are expected this summer for the majority of the lower 48 states, and especially the western states. These might seem like no-brainers, but following are some urgent automotive tips to keep in mind when temperatures start to climb.
When the summer weather gets warm, the interior of our cars can turn into ovens within minutes, making them unsafe for living things. Leaving the windows opened slightly does NOT significantly slow the heating process or decrease the maximum temperatures that can be reached inside an automobile.
When outside temperature are a moderately warm 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the interior temperature of your car can get to 109 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes and reach close to 140 degrees in only 90 minutes, turning your car into a scorching toaster oven.
According to KidsandCars.org, an average of 38 children die in hot cars each year from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside motor vehicles. Tragically, more than 650 infants and children have died in hot vehicles in the United States since 1990. If you’re a parent or caregiver, KidsandCars recommends you “Look before you Lock” to help prevent automotive heatstroke dangers. Most notably, put something in the back seat of your vehicle --purse, cellphone, employee badge, etc -- that requires you to open the back door every time you park. You can also keep a stuffed animal in your child’s car seat, and move it to the front as a reminder when your baby is in the back seat.
If you can’t bring Fido inside to your destination, don’t bring your pet along in the car at all: Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting and by sweating through their paw pads, and heatstroke can set in quickly. In fact, animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in as little as 15 minutes. Peta.org offers more tips here to help keep canines cool during the "dog days" of summer.
Check Your Tires!
Changes in the weather can affect the air pressure in your tires. Under-inflated tires are especially dangerous in the hot summer months: while vehicles are being driven at highway speeds, ambient heat and hot roadways contribute to the breakdown of tires and a greater likelihood for tire failure.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers the following tips:
• Follow the recommended tire pressure in
pounds-per-square-inch (PSI) for your vehicle. This information is usually found
a sticker inside the car door and in the vehicle owner’s manual.
• Purchase a tire pressure gauge to keep in your vehicle. Tires lose one PSI every month, so check your tires monthly to ensure proper inflation.
• Monitor the tread on all tires on your vehicle. Tires with tread worn down to 2/32 of an inch or less are not safe and should be replaced.
High summer temperatures can be hard on certain operating systems -- air conditioning, battery, radiator -- of your car, so pay special attention to this equipment as you get your car ready for summer.
It's miserable to be outside in the heat, but it's even worse when the inside of your car is full of hot air and the culprit is a malfunctioning air conditioning system. If you live in one of the country’s hot spots, you may want to start each summer with an air conditioning service. Find out more about air conditioning maintenance here at AskPatty.
Excessive heat can shorten battery life. Heat causes battery fluid to evaporate, thus damaging the internal structure of the battery; If your battery is the type that needs to be topped off, check it regularly, especially in hot weather. Add distilled water when necessary. Also be sure the connections are clean, tight, and corrosion-free to ensure full-power starts. AAA members can request a visit from a AAA Mobile Battery Service technician who will test their battery and replace it on-site, if necessary.
High temps can cause engine overheating, so check the level and condition of your coolant (antifreeze); coolant should be flushed and refilled every two years in most vehicles.