With many areas of Texas experiencing triple-digit temperatures, AAA Texas reminds drivers that summer’s extreme heat can push a vehicle past its limits, and that can lead to many drivers finding themselves stranded at the roadside. Last summer, AAA Texas came to the rescue of more than 360,000 motorists in the Lone Star State. With 97% of all trips being taken by car this summer, AAA Texas advises drivers to keep summer travel on track by having a vehicle thoroughly inspected before embarking on a road trip.
“The extreme heat we experience during summer can cause significant damage to a vehicle over time, which leads to thousands of stranded drivers each year on Texas roadways,” said Daniel Armbruster, AAA Texas spokesperson. “A professional and thorough vehicle inspection can help reduce the chance of a serious breakdown.”
The top three types of vehicle issues that could derail a summer road trip are dead batteries, engine trouble and flat tires. AAA Texas advises drivers to make a good B-E-T to stay on the road by having a vehicle’s Battery, Engine and Tires checked before embarking on a summer excursion. Long trips coupled with hot weather places additional strain on vehicles and in some cases may accelerate a dormant issue. When these key systems are in good working order, AAA data shows the odds of encountering a serious breakdown are greatly reduced.
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AAA Texas Summer Vehicle Maintenance Tips
Heat and vibration are a battery’s worst enemies, leading to internal breakdown and eventual failure.
- Make sure your battery is securely mounted to minimize vibration.
- Clean any corrosive buildup from battery terminals and cable clamps, as heat can cause faster evaporation of battery fluid, which leads to corrosion.
- Ensure clamps are tight enough that they will not move.
- If a battery is more than three years old, it’s a good idea to have it tested by a trained technician to determine how much longer it will last.
Cooling systems protect engines from overheating and should be flushed periodically, as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
- Between flushes, make sure the coolant is filled to the proper level by checking the overflow reservoir.
- If necessary, top off the reservoir with a 50/50 mix of water and the coolant type specified by the vehicle manufacturer.
- CAUTION! – Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot – boiling coolant under pressure could cause serious burns.
- Rubber cooling system components are susceptible to heat-related deterioration, so periodically inspect hoses and drive belts for cracking, soft spots or other signs of poor condition.
Just as driving on under-inflated tires is dangerous, over-inflated tires can cause uneven wear, reduce vehicle handling and make tires susceptible to road hazard damage.
- Check tire pressure often as tires lose pressure naturally (typically 1–3 psi per month) because a tire’s sidewall is permeable.
- Low tire pressure results in poor handling and braking, reduced gas mileage and excessive wear. So be sure to check your car’s tire pressure at least once a month—especially before a long trip.
- Check the tread depth. A tire’s ability to stop within a safe distance becomes compromised when its tread depth reaches 4/32 inch. An easy way to determine if a tire is worn out is to place an upside-down quarter (not a penny) in a tire tread. If you can see the top of Washington’s head, it’s time to replace the tire.
- Know the tire’s age. As a tire ages, its rubber becomes hard and brittle, losing elasticity and strength. Therefore, the older a tire, the higher the risk for failure. The age of your tire can be found by checking the last four DOT numbers stamped on a tire’s sidewall; for example, 0419 means the tire was manufactured in the fourth week of 2019. AAA Texas recommends replacing any tire that’s six years old or older.
- For more tire safety tips, drivers can visit AAA.com/TireTips
Even with preventive maintenance, summer breakdowns can still occur, so AAA Texas recommends drivers have a well-stocked emergency kit in their cars. The kit should include water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, road flares or an emergency beacon, basic hand tools and a first aid kit.
Many maintenance tasks needed to prepare a car for extreme summer heat are relatively simple and can be performed by the average driver, but some are best left to a trained automotive technician. AAA offers a free public service to assist motorists seeking a qualified auto repair facility. AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities must meet stringent professional standards and maintain an ongoing customer satisfaction rating of 90 percent or better. To locate a AAA approved repair shop, visit AAA.com/Repair. AAA Texas branch offices throughout the state can be found by visiting www.AAA.com. Follow AAA Texas on Twitter: @AAATexas and Facebook: www.facebook.com/AAATexas. Find additional news from AAA Texas in our online newsroom at http://tx-aaa.iprsoftware.com/.