It’s prime time for road trips and vacations during the hottest weather of the year. On the road that means extra engine stress and higher mileage when the air conditioning is blowing. Pets and travel buddies are often exposed to suffering heat. With a little attention you can master safe summer driving no matter how hot it gets.
The National Weather Service reports that 141 million people, in more than two dozen states, are under a heat advisory or warning because of the soaring temperatures. Twenty-two deaths are linked to high temperatures in the mid-west. The forecast is that it will keep expanding as it scorches the east over the next two weeks.
Each year more than seven million cars break down on the road due to high temperatures. The heat “… can present dangerous conditions for both the vehicle and its occupants.”, says Ray Palermo, Director of Public Relations for Response Insurance, a national car insurer.
Checklist for safe summer driving
1. Check the fluids: oil, transmission fluid, windshield washer, battery level and strength
2. Watch your tire pressure (make sure the spare is well inflated)
3. Check the cooling system (which should be flushed and refilled at least every two-years)
4. Make sure that belts and hoses are crack free
5. Update a well equipped emergency kit and tool box
Tips to lower stress, stay safe and comfortable during the high heat and humidity:
1. Take along moist towelettes and water to refresh yourself, and stop to stretch and relax every ninety minutes max.
2. Avoid getting overly hungry, which increases stress, with small snacks. Be sure you’ve packed those that will handle the heat and travel well. Protein and nut bars work well. Baggies of cut carrots and celery are hydrating and take the edge off hunger well. Avoid overly salty and greasy, packaged food.
3. Watch the engine pressure gauge. If you notice the temperature rising, one strategy is to turn off the AC and put the heater on full blast. It won’t be comfortable but will draw heat away from the engine.
4. At a fresh red light, put the car in “park” and lightly step on the gas to help circulate coolant.
5. Immediately pull off the road to a safe place if your temperature light goes on or the gauge arrow enters the red zone. Avoid irreparable damage to the engine and pull over to a safe place away from traffic.
6. It’s dangerous to try and remove the radiator cap as hot, pressurized coolant will spray out with great force. Don’t try to cool off the engine by pouring water over the radiator. A sudden change in temperature could again damage your chances of getting on the road again. Once the engine has cooled, add a 50-50 mix of coolant and water to the reservoir to bring it up to its advised (and marked) level.
7. Take care of your loved ones while waiting for the engine and radiator to cool down. Never leave a child or pet in a parked car. The interior of the car can become an oven even at 80 degrees, making it lethal for anyone or anything inside.
8. Be sure you have your cell phone with you and charged for emergency calls and to more easily update for those waiting for your arrival.
Enjoy your trip knowing that you’re prepared and have taken the best precautions to weather even the most extreme circumstances.
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