How this heatwave could push your vehicle to the limit

Missouri

BRANSON, Mo. – Downtown Texaco has been servicing overheated cars in the area for the last 29 years. Dee Dee Ulrich owns and operates the auto shop with her family.

“I got another car over here that’s overheating with a fan problem,” said Ulrich. “So a lot of people just don’t think. They just think it’s hot, crank the AC up. You know and again on these newer vehicles the AC is not going to work right if the coolant system is not where it needs to be.”

Last summer, AAA came to the rescue of more than 118,000 motorists in Missouri. They advise drivers to keep end-of-summer and fall travel on track by having a vehicle thoroughly inspected before embarking on a road trip.

Ulrich says the top three types of vehicle issues that could derail a summer road trip are dead batteries, engine trouble, and flat tires.

“Especially being in Branson, you got stop and go traffic. That’s the biggest thing we hear,” said Ulrich. “We were sitting in traffic on 76, and I started overheating and I had nowhere to go. We see it a lot.”

AAA Summer Vehicle Maintenance Tips:

Battery

Heat and vibration are a battery’s worst enemies, leading to internal breakdown and eventual failure.

  • Make sure your battery is securely mounted to minimize vibration.
  • Clean any corrosive buildup from battery terminals and cable clamps, as heat can cause faster evaporation of battery fluid, which leads to corrosion.
  • Ensure clamps are tight enough that they will not move.
  • If a battery is more than three years old, it’s a good idea to have it tested by a trained technician to determine how much longer it will last.

Engine

Cooling systems protect engines from overheating and should be flushed periodically, as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

  • Between flushes, make sure the coolant is filled to the proper level by checking the overflow reservoir.
  • If necessary, top off the reservoir with a 50/50 mix of water and the coolant type specified by the vehicle manufacturer. 
  • CAUTION! – Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot – boiling coolant under pressure could cause serious burns. 
  • Rubber cooling system components are susceptible to heat-related deterioration, so periodically inspect hoses and drive belts for cracking, soft spots, or other signs of poor condition.

Tires

Just as driving on under-inflated tires is dangerous, over-inflated tires can cause uneven wear, reduce vehicle handling and make tires susceptible to road hazard damage.

  • Check tire pressure often as tires lose pressure naturally (typically 1–3 psi per month) because a tire’s sidewall is permeable.
  • Low tire pressure results in poor handling and braking, reduced gas mileage, and excessive wear. So be sure to check your car’s tire pressure at least once a month—especially before a long trip.
  • Check the tread depth. A tire’s ability to stop within a safe distance becomes compromised when its tread depth reaches 4/32 inches. An easy way to determine if a tire is worn out is to place an upside-down quarter (not a penny) in a tire tread. If you can see the top of Washington’s head, it’s time to replace the tire.
  • Know the tire’s age. As a tire ages, its rubber becomes hard and brittle, losing elasticity and strength. Therefore, the older a tire, the higher the risk for failure. The age of your tire can be found by checking the last four DOT numbers stamped on a tire’s sidewall; for example, 0419 means the tire was manufactured in the fourth week of 2019. AAA recommends replacing any tire that’s six years old or older.
  • For more tire safety tips, drivers can visit AAA.com/TireTips

Even with preventive maintenance, summer breakdowns can still occur, so AAA recommends drivers have a well-stocked emergency kit in their cars. The kit should include water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, road flares or an emergency beacon, basic hand tools, and a first aid kit.

Many maintenance tasks needed to prepare a car for extreme summer heat are relatively simple and can be performed by the average driver, but some are best left to a trained automotive technician. AAA offers a free public service to assist motorists seeking a qualified auto repair facility. AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities must meet stringent professional standards and maintain an ongoing customer satisfaction rating of 90 percent or better. To locate an AAA-approved repair shop, visit AAA.com/Repair.

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