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Come January each year, writes Andrew Carter, we road users are often reminded of the dangers of driving in wintry conditions with advice on dealing with black ice, blizzards and worse.
But what about driving in unusually hot conditions?
At the time of writing, temperatures are forecast to soar into the thirties centigrade and further hot spells are predicted for the rest of the summer. A trawl through the websites of some leading motor insurance companies provides a useful checklist of things to bear in mind when planning a long journey in hot weather.
The advice invariably begins by recommending a thorough review of your vehicle.
Check Your Fluids
That means transmission, brake and power-steering fluids; windscreen wash; and, most important of all, the coolant. If your coolant/antifreeze level is too low, it can cause overheating.
Also, make sure you have enough oil in your car. Oil not only lubricates your engine but it actually helps to keep it cool.
Check Your Tyres
High temperatures exacerbate damage to the rubber on tyres so make sure you check tyre condition and pressures before you drive. Increase your tyre pressures if you will be carrying extra passengers or heavy luggage.
Make sure you know the normal operating temperature of your engine. Then, if you get stuck in a traffic queue, keep an eye on the temperature gauge for signs of overheating. The radiator relies on air flow in order to cool the engine, so if you are stuck in a queue and not moving for any length of time it’s worth turning off your engine while you are waiting for the traffic to start moving again.
If your car does begin to overheat then find somewhere safe to pull over and let the car cool down for at least half an hour before even thinking about topping up your radiator. If you can't pull over straight away opening the windows and turning on the heater may help dissipate some of the heat while you look for somewhere to stop.
The interior of your vehicle can get very hot in the summer, especially if the seats are leather or plastic. Keep your vehicle well-ventilated and try to park in a shady spot to prevent both the interior and engine of your car overheating.
If you have air conditioning in your car remember that it will not work effectively if you have any windows open. Also, if you are in a traffic jam don't forget that using your air conditioning will make you use up to 20% more fuel so if you are running low, consider turning it off and opening the windows instead.
All this mechanical advice probably sounds a bit old-fashioned to you. Surely most modern cars are designed to cope with a wide range of temperatures. Doesn’t it just boil down to little more than keeping an eye on the temperature and checking the tyre pressures occasionally?
Maybe, but don’t forget that however up to date and cutting edge the technology of your car may be, its driver and passengers are basic mark one human beings. So what’s the advice when it comes to dealing with them?
Plan your journey
Plan your route in advance and don’t forget to include breaks if you’re taking a long journey. Check traffic and weather conditions before you go so you’re prepared for what is ahead and can adjust your route if necessary.
If you’re planning to drive abroad, make sure you’re fully aware of the driving laws in the country you are travelling to.
Think about your choice of clothing
As the interior of your car can get very warm, make sure you wear clothes that will keep you as cool as possible.
While it is not against the law to wear inappropriate footwear behind the wheel, loose fitting sandals, flip flops and bare feet will affect your ability to control the pedals so it might be a good idea to bring another pair of shoes that you can change into for driving.
The warm weather is more likely to make you feel drowsy, so keep a bottle of water in your car to stay hydrated and alert.
Hay fever symptoms and medication can impair your driving ability so it’s crucial that you read the information leaflet of any remedy you take before you drive.
You may want to go for medication that doesn’t cause drowsiness, and close windows and vents to prevent pollen from entering your car.
Make sure you’re well-rested before setting off on a long journey and take a break if you feel tired.
Be careful on slippery road surfaces
In high temperatures, road surfaces can become soft. If it rains after a dry spell it may become slippery. These conditions may affect your steering and braking so always make sure you leave a big enough gap between you and the vehicle in front.
Reduce sun glare
Wearing sunglasses and using the sun visor in your car can prevent sunlight from dazzling you on the road. If this doesn’t help, you may need to slow down or pull over when it is safe to do so. Keep your windscreen clean as this will prevent sun glare and improve visibility.
Be cautious of road rage
When temperatures rise, tempers can also rise. Warm weather and congestion on the roads increases the likelihood of road rage. If you feel stressed while driving, take deep breaths and have a break if you need to.
Children On Board?
Make sure you take plenty of things to keep the kids amused, fed and watered just in case your journey takes longer than expected.
Compiled from advice from the following websites: Insurethebox.com; I Drive Safely, LLC; Carcalluk.com.
IAM RoadSmart © 2016.