Risk of Breakdown Increases with Every Day of Extreme Weather

Hamilton, NJ - With temperatures in New Jersey expected to climb into the upper 90s for a third straight day, AAA is reminding drivers that the risk of engines overheating, older batteries failing and tire troubles grows with each day of the extreme weather.

“The effect this kind of weather can have on your car is cumulative so we’ll be fielding lots of calls” says Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

AAA Mid-Atlantic has responded to over 5,000 calls from stranded drivers since Monday in New Jersey and is on pace to see high call volumes through the remainder of the week. 

For humans, heat exhaustion can occur at temperatures above 90 degrees. For vehicles, the white-hot temperatures exact a toll. So AAA recommends motorists make sure their vehicles are prepared for the summer months. Here are some common heat-related car problems, and what you can do to help prevent them:

  • Overheating: This is the most common cause of summer breakdowns. Service the cooling system as specified in the vehicle’s factory maintenance schedule. Check the coolant level, condition, and concentration periodically – a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and distilled water is recommended. Use the type of coolant recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Never remove a radiator cap until the engine has fully cooled!
  • Battery Failure: Heat and vibration are a battery’s two worst enemies, leading to internal breakdown and eventual failure. AAA recommends drivers have their vehicle’s battery tested when it reaches three years of age, and annually thereafter. For routine care, clean any corrosion from the battery posts and cable connections, wash the surfaces with a solution of baking soda and water, and tighten connections as needed. Make sure the battery is securely mounted so it cannot move about. If the battery has removable caps, check the fluid level at each oil change and top up with distilled water as needed. When working on a battery, always wear eye protection and rubber gloves to avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid.
  • Tire Blowout: Under-inflated tires affect vehicle handling and braking, and can also overheat, increasing the likelihood of a blowout. Check tire pressures once a month when they are cold, before driving any distance. Inspect the tires and make sure they have at least 4/32” of tread remaining for good wet-road traction. Also, look for uneven tread wear and cuts, tears or bulges in the sidewalls that may indicate internal tire damage or the need for wheel alignment. Rotate the tires as recommended, usually at every oil change. Remember to check the spare as well, and make sure the lug wrench and jack are present and in good, working condition.
  • Air Conditioning Failure: In extreme summer heat, automotive air conditioning is a pleasant convenience that can also increase safety by reducing driver fatigue. If the air conditioning does not cool the car interior as well as it once did, the refrigerant level may be low or there could be another problem. Have the system diagnosed by a trained and certified technician. Many vehicle climate control systems today are equipped with a cabin filter that prevents outside dust, pollen and debris from entering. If present, this filter should be inspected and replaced as needed to ensure maximum airflow and cooling during the summer months.

“There is one thing that two out of five drivers forget: carrying an emergency kit in the vehicle. It makes a lot of sense, but a  AAA survey shows that more than 40 percent of motorists do not have one at their disposal,” said Noble. “For safety’s sake, every driver should have a well-stocked emergency kit that includes a cell phone and car charger; a flashlight with extra batteries; a first-aid kit; drinking water; extra snacks/food for your travelers and any pets; battery booster cables; and emergency flares or reflectors.”

While many of the maintenance tasks to prepare a car for extreme summer heat are relatively simple and can be performed by the average driver, some are best left to a trained automotive technician. Motorists can identify reliable, high-quality repair shops with certified technicians by looking for the AAA Approved Auto Repair sign or by visiting a AAA Car Care Insurance & Travel Center. These facilities must meet and maintain high professional standards for customer service, technician training, tools, equipment, warranties and cleanliness. Nearby shops can be located at AAA.com/repair.