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Tips to keep your car's cool as summer heat looms

Sunday - 7/8/2012, 9:20am  ET

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WTOP's John Aaron with tips from AAA Mid-Atlantic

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Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - With temperatures expected to hover around 90 degrees Friday, you'll no doubt be reaching your car's A/C button.

But pay attention once the air conditioning comes on. If the car isn't getting as cool as it used to, AAA says there's likely a problem. The refrigerant level on the A/C may be too low, or it could be a sign of another problem.

AAA says most newer cars come with a filter to keep outside debris from getting into the cabin, but make sure that filter is clean and in working order before driving in the heat.

Here are some other warm weather driving tips from AAA:

Heat can zap the battery life

Most drivers think battery problems occur primarily in winter, but summer heat can negatively impact your car's battery even more. Heat and vibration are a battery's two worst enemies leading to internal breakdown and eventual failure. Drivers can make sure their battery is securely mounted in place to minimize vibration.

If a car's 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.

Keep Your Engine Cool

Automobile engines work extra hard in the summer, and it is the cooling system's job to protect the engine from overheating. In addition, additives in the coolant protect the radiator and internal engine components against wear and corrosion. Without proper cooling system maintenance, the odds of long term engine damage, and a summer time boil over, definitely increase.

Older coolants used to require changing every two years or 24,000 miles, but most modern formulations are good for at least five years and 50,000 miles. See the owner's manual or maintenance booklet to determine the service interval appropriate for a vehicle.

Avoid excessive heat where the rubber meets the road

Driving on under-inflated tires not only affects the handling and braking of a vehicle, it also can cause tires to overheat and increase the likelihood of a blowout. This problem becomes even more of a concern when road temperatures are extremely high.

More than half the vehicles on the road were found to have at least one under-inflated tire, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, and 85 percent of motorists do not know how to properly inflate their tires.

Tires should be checked when the car has not been driven recently, and they should be inflated to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer-not the number molded into the tire sidewall.

Cars need fluids during extreme heat

Engine fluids are essential to keeping a vehicle running smoothly. Most fluids not only lubricate, they also serve as coolants by helping carry heat away from critical components. When fluid levels are low, this cooling effect is reduced, and the possibility of overheating increases.

Drivers to should check all vehicle fluids including motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid to ensure they are filled to the appropriate levels.

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