How to keep the car ‘road ready’ during extremely hot temperatures

With extreme temperatures expected to reach between 100 to 105 on the heat index, auto club AAA Mid-Atlantic is reminding drivers to plan ahead before hitting the road.

“While we think about cold temperatures and the impact that cold weather has on our vehicles, particularly our batteries, it’s important to note that the heat can kill a battery just as quickly — if not quicker — than the cold weather,” said Ragina Ali, Manager of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic.

To prevent heat wave car mishaps, Ali said it’s important to keep the age of the car’s battery in mind.

“So if your battery is anywhere between three to five years old, it’s particularly susceptible to be impacted by extreme temperatures. So you want to make sure that your battery is in good shape. You also want to make sure your tires are in good shape, you want to keep them at normal pressure. Driving on underinflated tires cannot only cause them to overheat, it can increase the likelihood of a blowout, that’s particularly the case with road temperatures being so hot as well — the surface of the actual roadway,” Ali said.

Motorists are being reminded of the toll extreme heat can take on people and their vehicles.

“We know that the heat does play a big role at AAA. Just between Sunday through Tuesday, in the DMV area alone, AAA has responded to more than 9,600 calls for service,” Ali said.

Those calls include more than 2,200 calls for battery-related problems and more than 1,400 for tire problems. In more than 4,000 cases, AAA had to tow a member’s car, Ali said.

Just as humans and their pets need to stay hydrated, cars, trucks and SUVs need a vehicle’s version of hydration.

“You want to make sure to check all of your fluids — motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, all of those, and particularly your coolant right now. You want to make sure that your levels are proper there to avoid any sort of overheating,” Ali said.

Ali said that in extreme weather, making sure fluid levels are good applies whether you’re taking a quick jaunt around the D.C. region or leaving the area for a longer road trip.

Another reminder as you go about those checks: “You never want to remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot. So just be mindful of that as well,” Ali said.

Since car trouble can creep up even after prevention measures have been taken, keeping an emergency kit is important at all times — whether temperatures are frigid or hot.

“We talked a lot about that in the winter, when many people got stranded on I-95 there in the snow. It’s important to have an emergency kit in your vehicle in the summer as well. Making sure that your cellphone is fully charged, that you have a charger with you, that you have water. We always say water — it’s important to have even extra water in this extreme heat. Sometimes we’ll say, you want to have anywhere between four and six bottles of water per person in your vehicle,” Ali said.

That emergency kit should also include extra snacks, jumper cables and a flashlight.

If you’re traveling with children, Ali suggested taking extra care to remember your little ones when leaving your cars. On a hot day, temperatures inside a car can quickly soar to deadly levels. Ten minutes is enough for a car’s inside temperature to heat by 20 degrees in 10 minutes. On a 95-degree day, those temperatures can sizzle above 180 degrees.

“We see a lot of instances, unfortunately, with children being left in hot cars. … Nationwide, more than 1,000 children have died in hot cars since 1990. And just in this year alone, unfortunately, 11 children have died from vehicular heatstroke,” Ali said.

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