COLUMBUS — AAA expects the current heat wave to lead to an increased number of vehicle breakdowns. AAA responds to hundreds more calls on a hot, humid summer day than on a cooler day. Most of these calls are packed into the hottest part of the day, between the hours of 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Central Ohio AAA Car Care Plus centers are already seeing a growing number of vehicles coming into the shops with heat-related issues. These include dead batteries and breakdowns of vehicle electrical and cooling systems. Automotive experts say many of these breakdowns can be prevented with the following routine maintenance:
Check battery twice a year: During extreme heat, the majority of AAA’s roadside assistance calls are for dead batteries. Vehicle batteries typically last 3-5 years. Heat degrades a battery’s interior components and shortens its life. Depending on the demands of the vehicle electrical system and driving habits, prolonged heat can be harder on a battery than cold.
Maintain engine cooling system: Cooling systems must work extra hard during hot weather to keep engines from overheating. Coolant protects the radiator and internal engine components. Over time, coolant degrades, and needs to be changed. Neglecting this can lead to long-term engine damage. Rubber cooling system components will also deteriorate in extreme heat. Motorists should inspect hoses and drive belts for cracking, bulges, soft spots or other signs of poor condition.
Top off fluids: Most fluids not only lubricate, but also serve as coolants by carrying heat away from critical engine components. When fluid levels are low, this cooling effect is reduced, and the probability of overheating increases. It’s important to keep up on routine oil changes, as reputable shops will also inspect other fluid levels when changing the oil.
Check tire pressure and condition monthly: Changes in temperature can affect tire pressure, which can cause uneven wear and shorten the life of a tire. In addition, worn tires can’t grip the road during wet weather conditions, which can lead to hydroplaning.
Even with proper maintenance, summer breakdowns can still occur. AAA recommends every driver have an emergency kit in their vehicle, which includes a mobile phone charger, water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, emergency reflectors, basic hand tools and a first aid kit.