The wisest advice when the weather gets very hot is to assume a horizontal position and chill out somewhere cool and sheltered. However, Australians know that driving in hot weather is often necessary. By taking a few precautions, you can stay cool, avoid heat-related breakdowns, or in the worst case scenario, be safe if your car does breakdown.
STAY HYDRATED: Drive with spare water, enough for all your passengers and any pets too. On a long trip this may be several litres. Avoid caffeinated drinks. They might help keep you awake, but they are also diuretics which can cause your body to lose water.
PROTECT YOURSELF: Wear and bring extra sunscreen, and a hat in case you have to spend time outside the car.
CLEAN WINDSCREEN: In summer, there is a longer time period that the sun stays on the horizon making it more difficult for you to see east in the morning and west in the evening. A clean windscreen or a clean visor is essential, as any dirt and scratches diffract bright light, obscuring your vision.
EMERGENCY KIT: Be sure that you have a well-stocked emergency kit in the car. A kit should include water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables (only necessary if you have an older vehicle), a torch with extra batteries, road warning triangles and/or an emergency beacon, basic hand tools, and a first aid kit.
PLAN AHEAD: Make sure that your mobile phone is fully-charged (or bring a charger you can plug into the vehicle) and that you have some cash in your wallet for emergencies.
MONITOR YOUR FUEL GUAGE: Don’t let your fuel tank go to empty before filling up. This is fairly obvious but assumes greater importance when the weather is extremely hot.
SERVICE: If going on a long trip or if you haven’t had your car serviced in the last six months, you can prevent an uncomfortable breakdown by getting it looked over by a professional so you can be confident it’s in good shape. The service will check these essential maintenance items we’ve outlined below.
BATTERY CHECK: Hot temperatures put additional strain on your battery. Most batteries are maintenance-free these days, but if your battery has caps check the level and top up as necessary. If you have a maintenance free wet cell, gel cell or absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery, look them over to be sure that they haven’t cracked or leaked. For all types of battery, clean any corrosion from the terminals, secure all connections and assure that the battery is firmly mounted and safe from vibration. Battery testing, as well as delivery and installation by a qualified technician, is free for NRMA Members.
COOLANT SYSTEM: The coolant in your radiator should be replaced on a periodic basis – check your owner’s manual for details. In between, check the level of fluid in your cooling system by looking for the plastic overflow tank under your hood. The easiest way is to check the plastic reserve tank that’s connected to the cooling system. On the side of the reservoir will be a low and high mark and the coolant level should be between the two marks. It’s always good practice to check the coolant level on the radiator via the radiator cap, with one important proviso – this should always be done when the engine is cold. Removing the cap when the engine is hot can cause coolant to spray out under pressure, seriously scalding you. If the level is low you can add coolant, again checking the owner’s handbook for the correct recommendation.
ENGINE OIL AND OTHER FLUID LEVELS: Hot weather driving puts heavy demand on all of your engine’s components, not just your cooling system. Check your engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid to make sure that they’re all at the recommended levels.
AIR CON: If your car air conditioning isn’t working as well as it has in the past, take it to a certified technician and have it serviced. Have them replace the cabin air filter, if it hasn’t been done within the past six months.
TYRES: Make sure that your tyres are properly inflated before you head out for a drive. Under-inflated tyres flex more, which causes heat buildup. If conditions are already hot, under-inflated tires are even more likely to fail. Don’t forget the spare, if your car has one, and check you have the jack and tools to change a wheel. Check the tyres’ tread depth while you’re at it, and if they are close to the wear limiters, consider replacing.
Did we miss any other tips? How do you prepare for driving in hot weather?
Other Useful Links:
- Getting your car ready for winter
- Drivers take note: roads are extra slippery after hot weather:
- Outback driving
- Before you leave home
- What should you do if you see a child locked in a hot car?
- What should you do if you see a pet locked inside a hot car?