The hot summer heatwave is coming! Will your car stand up to the heat? Some common car problems caused by the sunny weather include overheating engines, dry rot in the tyres, peeling paint and a fading interior. Luckily, these are all preventable with a little car care.
How to stop your engine from overheating
A car engine is powered by a series of controlled explosions. This heat is actually useful for other component such as the catalytic converter but it needs to be regulated to avoid damage. There are many parts for coolant to flow and maintain a stable temperature. A failure in this cooling system will cause your engine to overheat and may lead to plenty of other issues.
WARNING: Make sure your engine is cool before working with it. If driving, pull over and wait for 30 mins for it to cool. As a precaution, always use heat protection when handling the engine to avoid burns to your hands.
1. Check your coolant level. Pop open the bonnet and look at the fluid level in the coolant reservoir. Confirm that it is between the Max and Min levels. If your vehicle doesn’t have a reservoir then you will have to open up the radiator and check the coolant level in there. The fluid should be up to the bottom of the filler neck where the cap goes on.
WARNING: Make sure the engine is cool before opening the radiator. It is a pressurised container that will vent hot steam. This can cause severe burns.
2. Top up your engine coolant. When the coolant is lower than MAX, or isn’t full in the radiator, then you should add some coolant. You should use the same coolant, as other kinds may act differently in the engine and cause blockages. A very temporary solution is to use water until you can get to a nearby garage.
3. Check for leaks. Take a flashlight to the underside of your engine to and inspect the area for damp or dripping. The coolant will usually be green, pink or orange so it should stand out under the light. The leak will usually be found near the radiator, the front area of the engine, and the firewall area. If you do find a leak then get a repair immediately. While you can keep topping the coolant up every few miles, this is a hassle and the leak can cause other problems such as contaminating fuel.
4. Keep an eye on the temperature of your engine. Vehicles will usually have a temperature gauge on the dashboard, it may even have a warning system to alert you. If your coolant temperature is approaching dangerous levels then pull over immediately to avoid any further damage to your vehicle. An overheated engine can be very expensive, especially when there is a less costly alternative.
How to stop your tyres being victims of dry rot
Tires are made of rubber, which makes them durable, able to handle thousands of kilos and resist punctures. They survive for through mud and snow but the heat of the sun can quickly deteriorate any tire. The heat dries out the rubber which causes hairline cracks. It can turn small scratches into gauges down to the metal. Here are some ways to protect your tires:
Park in the shade. When possible you should choose a cool spot behind a wall or under a tree. Preventing direct sunlight to your tyres should keep them a lot cooler than it’s surroundings.
Cover the tyres. If your car is going to be parked for several days or there aren’t any tall trees in the area, then you can use tyre covers. Ones in lighter shades will absorb less heat although good luck keeping the whites white when working with tyres. A complete car cover amy also work here, although it can be infeasible with larger vehicles.
Move your car. Actually using them more will mean they are less likely to crack. This is especially true for vehicles, such as motorhomes, which may be parked for weeks at a time.
Use tyre dressing when detailing. Tyre dressing stops the rubber from drying out and cracking. It also gives them a shinier surface for you to show off. Invest in a good quality brand for this, as some may actually cause more damage.
How to keep your paint healthy in the sun
Car paint bears the brunt of the sun’s rays and gets very hot sitting on metal, enough to fry an egg. The colour can be stripped out by the sun’s light and eventually a coat of paint may crack and peel. This is dangerous for the bonnet lid as it can cause rust to infect your car. Here are a few ways to protect your paint job:
Clean and wax your car. Not only will your car be sparkling, you should also be protected against more of the sun’s heat. During the summer, having a wax every 2 months should keep your car sparkling and protected. Use a high quality wax that also protects against UV damage.
Park in the shade. Again, you want to get out of the sun and the heat. Even if you’re only stopping for a few hours, you’ll be a lot more comfortable when you return and your car will be kept a lot healthier. Even if it’s a longer walk, think of it as a challenge, your own heptathlon of dragging the shopping back to the car.
Cover your car. If you don’t have a garage or can’t use an underground parking facility then you should buy a car cover. A car cover will protect your car from the elements, and particularly the sun. This car cover should last you a long time, and prolong the finish of your car. You should be covering your car anytime that you’re gone for over 2 hours and, while this may be inconvenient, your car will show it’s appreciation.
How to protect your interior surfaces from the sun
Interior surfaces, especially vinyl, leather, and plastic, are vulnerable to heat and direct sunlight. You should be treating these surfaces with protective coats or covering them. The materials degrade in different ways but sunwashed surfaces will affect the resale value of many cars. Here are a few tips to help protect your interiors:
Tinted windows. Window tinting protects you from the sun and UV rays. While in the UK you can only fully tint the rear windows, you can still partially tint your front side windows and windscreens. You can apply your own window tint, or get a professional to do it.
Moisturise your leather. Leather dries out in the sun which can cause a lot of those wrinkles to crack. These cracks will eventually develop into into larger holes so it’s important to have a regular schedule for moisturising your car. Re-applying the conditioner should usually happen every month. That should be around a similar time as a quick car wash, so you can do them at the same time. Make sure to get a good leather conditioner which shows a clear difference to the worn out leather beforehand.
Clean the interior. Your big cleaning day once a month should include an interior clean, as well as the exterior. Some cleaners can be more soap based which will dry out surfaces, so you have to buy one that will both clean and condition your surfaces.
Use sun visors. Sun visors will reflect the sun’s rays and the heat back out. Using a sun visor is best when parking in sunlight. Unfold the sun visor in the car and face the metallic side to the outside. Make sure it reaches all the corners and use your sunshields to pin the sun visor in place. On a sunny day you can bake cookies on the dash, as your car climbs 20℃ above the outside temperature in half an hour.
You should be getting all your scheduled services squared off before the summer, as many issues crop up in the heat. Using these tips, you can make sure your car avoids any sun damage to the interior and exterior. If your car is experiencing problems, then get a diagnostic inspection to find out what’s wrong and fix any minor issues.