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What to Do to Keep Your Car Running Smoothly in the Summer Heat

June 14, 2021
4 mins
A woman looks under the hood of her car while on the phone

Ah, summertime! The season that creates lifelong memories of fun in the sun with family and friends. It beckons to us all to get outside and explore the natural world.

The summers may be short in Canada, but the heat can be intense. Since travelling to the U.S. is unlikely for some time yet, many of us may fancy taking road trips closer to home. One survey shows 58% of Canadians are planning to travel domestically this summer. Once interprovincial borders open, if you plan to drive or jet off to another province, get a travel insurance policy before you go.

For those of us who are revved up to cruise to a cottage, campground, or provincial park this summer63% of us plan to take day trips locally and 50% intend go on a longer trip within their provinces this year – it’s wise to ensure your vehicle is up for the trip too.

But before you go, make sure you have the right amount of car insurance coverage, especially if your vehicle was in storage, or if you reduced coverage on it because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In any event, on those occasions when the thermometer rises, it pays to know how to maintain your vehicle. This is especially true in a future where hotter Canadian summers are expected as weather patterns continue to shift.

Regular vehicle maintenance is vital throughout the year. Steer clear of the summertime blues and prevent your vehicle from suffering a heat-related breakdown with these useful tips:

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Check your vehicle’s cooling system

The no. 1 problem your car will face during sweltering summer temperatures is the risk of overheating. To keep your coolant system functioning properly:

  • Flush the coolant periodically in accordance with manufacturer recommendations.
  • Check the overflow coolant reservoir and top it off with a 50-50 mix of water and coolant if it is running below the fill line. If you keep having to top it off, that is a sign you need to have your coolant system inspected.
  • Keep a pre-mixed jug of coolant in the trunk of your car if it is prone to overheating. But take note: never remove the radiator cap while the engine is hot.
  • Check rubber hoses and belts for deterioration or leaks. Keep an eye out for a puddle under your car after you park it for a while. That too is a sign you need to have the coolant system checked by a professional automotive technician.

Is your vehicle’s battery up to snuff?

Just as extreme cold can kill your vehicle’s battery, extreme heat can also cause it to fail as well. That's because extreme high temperatures shorten the lifespan of car batteries. Batteries work harder in the summer to power your car's air conditioning system. In addition, battery fluid can evaporate and cause your terminals to corrode and fail. To avoid battery issues this summer:

  • If your battery is more than three years old, get it tested to see how much life is left.
  • Dab an old toothbrush with a mixture of baking soda and warm water to scrub any corrosion that has built up on the terminals.
  • Whenever possible, avoid parking in the direct sun. Choose a garage or a shady spot to keep the internal temperature of your battery from climbing too high.

Cool runnings: other ways to prepare your car for hot weather

While the battery and cooling system are most affected by summer’s heat, here are a few more things to do as the mercury rises:

  • Check all your other fluids including engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid and power steering fluid. If you are running low, summer heat can evaporate these liquids even more. If they evaporate entirely, your engine will not function properly.
  • Replace your cabin air filter if you have one. This will allow your air conditioning to operate more efficiently.
  • Driving regularly in the summer heat can be hard on your car’s tires. Tire blowouts are a risk to be mindful of, particularly during heatwaves or if your tire treads are wearing down. Keep an eye on the tire pressure and the condition of your tires’ treads.
  • If your air conditioner isn't blowing cold air, you need to get it checked by a technician. The issue could be something minor such as being low on refrigerant, or something more serious like a leak in the system.
  • If you’re driving less or not at all (whether due to the COVID-19 pandemic or because yours is a seasonal vehicle that’s in storage throughout the winter), there are steps you need to take to keep it in good condition such as taking weekly outings to keep fluids moving, including oil and gas, which can deteriorate if left sitting too long.
  • Prepare for breakdowns, especially if you have an older car. Keep an emergency roadside kit in your car that contains water, non-perishable snacks, jumper cables, flares and a flashlight. Pro tip: Keep the batteries for the flashlight separate so that they do not corrode.
  • Check with your insurance company or broker to see if your car insurance policy includes roadside assistance in case of a breakdown.
Liam Lahey

Liam Lahey is a versatile marketer with experience as a staff and freelance writer for many business and technology publications and newspapers. He previously worked as the editor and media spokesperson for RATESDOTCA, handling home, auto, and travel insurance topics.

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