The summer months across most parts of South Africa can be harsh at times with temperatures often far exceeding 30°C. While cars are designed to withstand all sorts of conditions, how much damage can the sun cause and which parts of your car are most susceptible?
It’s important to know what hot weather can do to your car so you can be better prepared. In this article, we explore a few simple summer car care tips and advice on how to keep your car cool during the warmer months.
The Real Impact Of Heat On Your Car
It’s easy to forget simple vehicle maintenance during the summer as we are often more concerned about winter driving. However, did you know that tyre punctures are more likely to occur in hot weather?
Clutch problems are also a common sight as the extreme heat causes additional wear and tear. While these are the more serious issues, you also have to think about the interior, such as the dashboard, steering wheel and seats.
Summer Car Care Guide
While hot weather is perfect for the beach and going on adventure holidays, it’s not so good for your car. Here are some of the most vulnerable parts you need to be aware of.
While cold weather does put additional strain on your battery, the summer heat also takes its toll. Extreme temperatures can impact the chemical processes inside the battery which results in problems holding a charge or producing enough power. It only gets worse when using the air conditioning, fans, electric windows and sunroof, for example.
A top summer car tip is to get a service before the heat arrives to ensure everything is in good working order. Use a volt-meter to check your battery’s power output or ask your mechanic to take a look before it’s too late.
This will give you a good indication of the health of your battery and whether it’s time to replace or charge it. Remember to always keep a reliable set of jumper leads in your car when planning longer trips.
Maintain Your Cooling System
Your car’s cooling system works harder in extreme conditions whether it’s freezing cold or exceptionally hot. These systems rely on coolant or antifreeze to keep all the engine parts cool and working at their optimal levels.
When it’s hot, these fluids circulate in the engine at a higher temperature which can cause some parts to overheat and fail. Problems are more likely when travelling at lower speeds due to less air circulating through the fan to cool the radiator.
The first thing you should do is make sure your cooling system is topped up with high-quality coolant or antifreeze. Only use a top coolant/antifreeze with a high boiling point which is perfect for summer driving.
Check Your Air Conditioning
Most modern cars have air conditioning as standard which may sound like bliss but it can cause problems as well. Without maintaining your car’s air conditioning throughout the year (whether you use it often nor not), it might struggle to cool you down effectively.
Air conditioners can become clogged which will affect the overall performance and can also leave a funky smell throughout the cabin. Make sure you ask a professional mechanic to service your car’s air conditioning every 2-4 years, or every 30,000 km.
The Effect Of Heat On Engine Oil
When driving your car in hot weather, the engine oil will thin slightly due to the heat. This means some engine parts won’t get the protection they need which may result in more friction and an increased risk for engine damage.
We recommend that you replace your engine oil just before summer, topping it up to the maximum. This way your engine is properly protected even when temperatures are on the high side.
Summer Car Care For Tyres
Contrary to what some may believe, car tyres do not handle hot weather all that well. The excessive heat makes the air inside the tyre expand which results in over-inflation. It’s been known that extreme heat can also cause bulging on the tyre wall.
Check your tyre pressure at least once a month and before going on any long journeys. The effects of prolonged exposure to hot weather can result in your tyre pressure increasing above the recommended levels and increases the likelihood of a blowout.
Tips For Protecting Your Windscreen
Car windshields are designed to expand in high temperatures and contract in cooler conditions. However, when there’s a sudden change in temperature, the process is accelerated and that can easily lead to cracks and cause existing cracks or holes to deteriorate and spread faster.
When you open the door and experience that oven-like heatwave, don’t be tempted to turn on the air conditioner to full blast. This rapid change in temperature can shock your windshield’s internal safety layer so it’s best to do the following:
- Turn the air conditioning on gradually
- Don’t slam your car doors as the window glass could shatter or crack
- Park in the shade to keep the temperature in your car as low as possible
- Repair small chips and minor cracks immediately to avoid serious damage
How To Keep Your Car Cool During Summer
Now that we’ve covered the most heat-susceptible car parts and a few easy summer car care tips, let’s take a look at how to keep cool.
- Put up a sunshade or window visor every time you exit the car for long periods. To keep it even cooler, put a sunshade in your rear window as well
- Use a fabric or upholstered dashboard cover to protect you from touching hot vinyl surfaces while keeping the sensitive surface safe from sun damage
- Put a towel or special cover over your steering wheel
- Try to park in a shady area whenever possible
- Keep your possessions out of direct sunlight and consider keeping items in the boot
- Park your car in a garage when possible
- Keep windows slightly open to help with ventilation
- Consider a solar-powered fan which can work wonders when used in conjunction with open windows
- Put blankets over your seats, especially if they’re made from vinyl or leather
- Leave your doors open for a few minutes and wind down your windows before getting in
The heat can certainly make us uncomfortable but it also poses certain risks to our cars. However, by keeping to a regular maintenance schedule and using the right products, you can greatly minimise any serious issues.
If you liked reading these summer car care tips, keep an eye on our blog for more advice on road safety, vehicle maintenance, and all the latest motoring news from around the world. You can also visit our Online Showroom if you are looking for a quality pre-owned vehicle or demo model.