Preventing a Vehicle Meltdown in the Heat

Summer Car Care Tips

Written by Bonnie Gringer

After a long and hot summer, the sun and heat have taken a toll on your vehicle. But did you know there are many preventative measures you can take to keep your car running smoothly even in the hottest of temperatures? This infographic provides pro-tips from experts in the automotive industry designed to help you maintain 18 different parts of your car in the sweltering heat.

Don’t let your car go into a meltdown, know the signs and beat the heat!

Car Care in the summer heatSummer Car Care Maintenance Checklist infographic

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Preventing a Vehicle Meltdown

Summer Car Care Tips

Title/Car Part Description
Paint Job Problem: Cracking, color fading, and minor scratches from dust
Tip: Wash and wax the exterior more frequently.
Windshield Wipers Problem: Damage from winter and problems handling heavy summer storms
Tip: Replace with season-appropriate wipers.
Windshield Washer Fluid Problem: Fluid drying up more frequently
Tip: Check levels when you stop, especially on long trips.
Interior Problem: Fading, cracks, and tears
Tip: Condition leather, cover windows, or use seat covers.
Tires Problem: Higher risk of blowouts
Tip: Monitor tire pressure more frequently.
Suspension Problem: Springtime potholes, continuous alignment problems leading to uneven wear
Tip: Check the suspension in early summer.
Pro Tip: Gently push on the side of the hood and see how much it “bounces” to test the struts.
Power-Steering Fluid Problem: Fluids affected by heat
Tip: Check your levels periodically.
Pro Tip: If you hear a whining or squealing only when you turn, you might need more fluid.
Transmission Fluid Problem: Fluids affected by heat
Tip: Check your levels periodically, especially if transitions between gears are jumpy.
Radiator Hose Problem: Electrochemical degradation (ECD)
Tip: Open the hood and check the hose for damage and any leaks.
Coolant Problem: Low coolant fluids, which can kill your engine
Tip: When the car is off, check the coolant reservoir.
Pro Tip: If it smells sweet under the hood, it’s usually a coolant leak.
Water Pump Problem: Overuse of the coolant system, which can stress key components
Tip: Listen for sounds and look for leaks. If the system is overheating, take it to a mechanic.
Brake Fluid Problem: Fluids affected by heat
Tip: Check your levels periodically.
Pro Tip: Look for any leaks when you pull away from a parking spot. This may be brake fluid or another type of fluid.
Oil Problem: Sludge
Tip: Use the dipstick to check your levels, especially during long trips.
Oil Filter Problem: Sludge and grime
Tip: Make sure the oil filter is replaced as often as recommended for your vehicle. (Check the manual.)
Engine Belts Problem: Deterioration, cracks, and loosening
Tip: Listen for any squealing or unusual sounds.
Battery Problem: Thermal runaway, internal heat issues, evaporated battery fluids, and corrosion
Tip: Carry jumper cables and check levels frequently.
Air Filter Problem: Dust and damage, which can lead to poor AC performance
Tip: Replace the filter as often as recommended for your vehicle. (Check the manual.)
Pro Tip: Often, a dusty air filter can be cleaned just by vacuuming!
Air Conditioning Problem: Overuse, leaking freon, or electrical issues
Tip: Get it checked out at the beginning of the summer, not the end. Try not to turn it on full blast.


Think you know everything there is to know about keeping your car in tip top shape? Have a look at a few examples below, you may be unknowingly putting your car in danger:

  • Did you know you should check your car’s fluids more often in the summer? Fluids are more prone to evaporation and can become less effective when exposed to higher temperatures.
  • Did you know there is a higher risk of tire blowouts in the summer heat? Make sure to check your tire pressure more frequently!
  • Did you know warmer temperatures and intense sun can cause cracking and fading in your car’s paint? Even your paint job isn’t safe!

If Your Car DOES Overheat …

  • Watch your temperature gauge. See if it creeps into the red or “warning” area.
  • Turn off your AC system if the temperature gets too high. Consider turning on the heat; it will pull heat away from the engine.
  • When you’re sitting in traffic, shift into neutral and rev the engine. This speeds up the water pump.
  • If you see smoke, always safely pull over. White smoke is water or coolant burning off.
  • Turn the engine off. Wait and consider calling a tow truck. If it’s still smoking, do not remain in the vehicle. Be careful while exiting.
  • Let the engine cool for at least a half-hour. Make sure you have flares or lights to ensure that you won’t get rear-ended on the road.
  • Do NOT remove the radiator cap! If you must remove it, wait an hour or until the engine is completely cool. Pull it off with a rag to protect your hand and open it away from – you.
  • Refill coolant in the coolant overflow container if there is one. Do NOT pour cold water into a hot radiator.
  • Use your eyes and nose to check for leaks. Coolant has a sweet smell. Often, you will see a puddle under your car.
  • Consider driving again only if you’re confident that you can make it to your location on the coolant you have. Repeat the process if the problem continues, and call for help. Often, there’s only so much you can do safely on the side of the road.

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