With temperatures reaching well above 100 degrees in Arizona, it is important to know how to keep you and your vehicle safe on the road when you’re summer driving in Arizona. If your vehicle is not well-maintained, high temperatures can lead to more serious and pricey problems than hot leather seats and seatbelt burns. Don’t let a breakdown ruin the fun of summer road trips and vacation time spent with your family and friends; follow these five safety tips so you can arrive safely at all your summer destinations:
1. Keep an eye on your tire pressure. Hot pavement and underinflated tires are a dangerous combination that can lead to premature wear and blowouts. Underinflated tires have more surface contact with sizzling roads, increasing friction that leads to problems. Always check your tire pressure before heading out on a road trip and watch for ‘low tire pressure warnings’ on your vehicle’s dashboard. Check with the vehicle manufacturer or the driver’s manual for the recommended tire pressure level unique to your vehicle.
2. Monitor all fluid levels. Just like we need to stay hydrated during the hot summer months, your vehicle needs to be hydrated with proper oil, transmission, power-steering, and brake fluids. These fluids act as cooling agents by diverting heat away from your vehicle’s important internal parts. Extreme heat can cause essential fluids to evaporate faster and lead to overheating. Monitor your vehicle’s fluid levels to ensure they’re completely filled with the correct type of fluid for your vehicle.
3. Check your battery. The ticking sound of your engine struggling to start is often your vehicle’s way of telling you the battery is low or dead. Extreme summer heat and constant vibration tends to drain your car’s battery fluid. While you can’t turn down the heat, you can check your battery to ensure it is securely attached to prevent vibration and clean any substances that may build up on the surrounding terminals and cable clamps. Batteries over three years old should be inspected by an auto technician to determine its remaining life expectancy. Most car batteries do not last more than three Arizona summers.
4. Perform a coolant flush every 30k miles. Coolant is your vehicle’s first line of defense against overheating. To prevent overheating, have a coolant flush performed every 30,000 miles and replace belts and hoses every 36,000-50,000 miles, depending on the year and make of your vehicle. Lower than average coolant levels may point to a leak that should be addressed. Safety tip: Always allow your vehicle to completely cool before removing the radiator cap to check your coolant levels!
5. Keep a safety kit in your vehicle. Even though you perform regular vehicle maintenance; road debris, sudden changes in weather, and distracted drivers can lead to unexpected accidents or breakdowns. Some elements of driving are simply out of your control, but your response preparedness is within your control. Assemble and keep a safety kit with essential supplies in your vehicle, in case an emergency leaves you stranded. A safety kit should include bottled water, jumper cables, flashlights with extra batteries, flares or a reflective triangle, a first aid kit, a phone charger, walking shoes, socks, non-perishable food items like granola bars, and baby formula and diapers if you have a small child. Remember to replenish and maintain your kit.
Johnny Martinez is general manager of Larry H. Miller Dodge Ram Peoria.