Claremore Daily Progress

August 8, 2011

Extreme heat hard on vehicles

Zack Stoycoff
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE — Regardless of the kind of car you drive, when the temperature gets into and stays in the triple digits, you’re the owner of a “hot” rod.

As the heat continues to punish Claremore and the rest of Rogers County, a local mechanic reminds motorists that the extreme heat can take its toll on vehicles.

“Like people, cars are under increased stress when they’re subjected to extreme temperatures, such as the heat we’ve had in Oklahoma lately,” said John Roaton, Robertson Tire store manager. “Like your body, a car has to work harder to do its job and keep from overheating. Something that becomes increasingly hard as temperatures rise, especially when it comes to your tires. Heat is the number one killer of tires.”

Roaton said tires should be checked when a car has not been driven recently and only inflated to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, found in the owner’s manual or on the driver’s side doorjamb.

“Recommended tire pressure isn’t always molded into a tire’s sidewall. That’s a mistake many people make,” he said, “but the number can always be found on the inside of the vehicle’s door and it’s a number that’s put there for a reason. You never want to over-inflate or under-inflate your tires.”

Over-inflated tires are more prone to damage from impacts with pot holes, Roaton said, and can result in premature tread wear in the center of the tire as well as increasing operating temperatures and increasing the risk of a blowout.

Under-inflated tires run hotter than properly inflated ones, a particular danger during hot summer months, developing excessive heat which can lead to tire failure or blowouts.

An under-inflated tire also wears abnormally, with the tread on the outside edges of the tire wearing faster than the tread in the center of the tire, Roaton said.

Additionally, driving on underinflated tires can cost up to a mile a gallon in fuel economy because it takes more fuel to overcome the rolling resistance of a partially inflated tire.

Driving on underinflated tires also adversely affects handling and the tire can overheat and blowout.

When checking tire pressure, Roaton reminded motorists not to forget checking pressure on the spare as well as tire treads for adequate depth or uneven wear, which could be indicative of a suspension or alignment problem.

But what’s under the hood of your car can be as impacted by the extreme heat as where the rubber meets the road.

“Like a person, it’s important for an automobile to stay ‘hydrated’ during the hottest months, only with regular oil changes and fresh fluid.

“Summer is not the time to skip giving your car the maintenance it needs year-round,” he said. “Engine fluids are essential to keeping your vehicle running smoothly.

“Most (engine) fluids not only lubricate but also serve as coolants by helping to carry heat away from critical components,” he said.

“When fluid levels are low, this cooling effect is reduced and the risk of overheating increases. Have all vehicle fluids — motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid — to ensure they are filled to the appropriate levels.”

Although not related to a car’s maintenance, Roaton said it’s “certainly not a bad idea” to park in the shade if possible, and to make use of a “sun block” to protect your dashboard from the weathering effects of the sun as well as helping reduce cabin temperatures. Other hot weather car tips Roaton offered included:

• Inspect the vehicle's battery. Extreme heat strains and drains car batteries in the summer, especially when running an air conditioner.

Dimming headlights and clicking noises signal that it may be time to replace a battery.

• Be prepared in case of an emergency. Carry emergency supplies, such as a car care kit with jumper cables, a tire pressure gauge, a flashlight, hazard signs, snacks, water and a charged cell phone, should you find yourself stranded at the side of the road.

Ultimately, Roaton advised motorists to simply “pay attention” to their car and its needs, important year-round, but even moreso when Mother Nature turns up the thermostat.