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

A side view of a car driving in the hot summer heat.

While Canada generally has temperate summers, the climate is changing. As the planet warms it is expected that average temperatures will rise and heat waves will become more severe. This past June was the warmest on record, and recent heatwaves throughout the country are perhaps a sign of things to come.

For those occasions when summer heat simmers beyond the norm, it pays to know how to properly maintain your vehicle. This is especially true in a future where hotter Canadian summers are in the forecast.

Here's what you need to know to avoid a heat-related breakdown this summer:

Check Your Cooling System

The number one problem your car will face driving sweltering summer temperatures is the risk of overheating. Coolant systems keep your car from overheating by pumping liquid coolant through the engine to absorb heat. The liquid coolant flows into the radiator, where it is cooled down by passing air. The process repeats keep the engine from overheating while running. If coolant runs out, a hose leaks or a pump stops working, the entire cooling system can fail causing your engine to overheat and your car to stop running.

To keep your coolant system functioning properly:

  • Flush the coolant periodically in accordance with manufacturer recommendations.
  • Check the overflow coolant reservoir and top 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, this 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. 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. This is another sign you need to have the coolant system checked.

Watch the Battery

Just as extreme cold can kill your battery, extreme heat can also cause batteries to fail as well. That's because extreme high temperatures shortens the life of car batteries. Batteries work harder in the summer as they power your car's air conditioning system, which puts further strain on their life span. 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.
  • 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.

Other Ways To Keep Your Car Cool This Summer

While the battery and cooling system are most affected by summer heat, here are a few more things to do when 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 dry up, 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.
  • If your air conditioner isn't blowing cold air, you need to get it checked by certified technician. You might be low on refrigerant or there might be leak.
  • 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 to see if you have roadside assistance in case of a breakdown.

Knowing how to keep your car running smoothly in the summer heat might is important, even in the Great White North. Now that you know how to take care of your car when temperatures soar, do something about soaring auto insurance premiums and browse Rates.ca to find an affordable rate today.