Drivers Urged to Avoid a Meltdown and a Breakdown During the Heatwave
AAA reminds motorists of toll extreme heat can take on humans and their vehicles
as auto club responds to nearly 1,000 Calls for roadside service in Kansas in three days
WICHITA, Kan. – July 21, 2022 – With extremely high temperatures expected to continue across Kansas during the next several days, the National Weather Service forecasts a dangerous heatwave will impact much of the United States. More than 100 million Americans are currently located in areas with excessive heat warnings and advisories.
“As temperatures continue to spike across the region, commuters and travelers need to be aware of the added stress high temperatures place not only on the human body, but on vehicles, as well,” said Shawn Steward, spokesman for AAA Kansas.
With the current heatwave anticipated to last into the middle of next week in our area, AAA Kansas is reminding motorists to take a few precautions to prepare their vehicles – and themselves before hitting the road.
“Whether you are heading across the country or across town, motorists need to make sure their vehicles are road-ready and up-to-date on maintenance,” said Jon Burgett, Manager of Emergency Roadside Service Fleet Operations with AAA Kansas. “The effect this kind of weather can have on your car is cumulative.”
Preventive Summer Vehicle Maintenance Tips
Batteries – Heat kills batteries. Car batteries rarely give advance notice before they fail. Batteries three-to-five years old are most likely to succumb to extreme temperatures.
Tires – Keep your tires at normal pressure. Driving on under-inflated tires can cause them to overheat and increase the likelihood of a blowout. This problem becomes even more of a concern when road temperatures are extremely high. Tires should be inflated to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer – not the number molded into the tire sidewall. Recommended tire pressures can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker normally located on the driver’s door jamb or the inside of the glove compartment door.
Fluids – When fluid levels are low, the possibility of overheating increases. Drivers should check all vehicle fluids including motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid to ensure they are filled to the appropriate levels.
Coolant – Motorists should check the coolant level in the overflow tank and top off as needed. If the engine is cool, check the level in the radiator as well. Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot, you can be seriously scalded. Have the cooling system flushed and new coolant installed when recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
Even with proper preventive maintenance, summer breakdowns can still occur. That’s why having a “Plan B” for vehicle breakdowns is critical.
From Sunday, July 17 through Tuesday, July 19, AAA responded to nearly 1,000 emergency roadside assistance calls in Kansas alone, including 17% for battery-related problems, 14% for tire-related issues, and more than 500 calls (55% of all calls) for towing due to engine failures and other issues.
AAA Kansas emergency roadside assistance calls during the July 17-19 period this year were up 24% compared to the same dates in 2021.
AAA offers these tips to keep drivers safe and vehicles operating in the warm days ahead:
Prepare before hitting the road. During the summer months, drivers should carry an emergency kit, including a fully charged cellphone and charger, extra water and snacks, jumper cables and a flashlight. Drivers should also have coolant with them. “Just as motorists place an emergency kit in their cars during winter months, they should do the same in the summer,” AAA Kansas’ Steward said. “With extreme temperatures, such as the ones we are experiencing, an inconvenience can quickly escalate to an emergency if motorists are not prepared.”
Spare your battery. If traffic is not moving, do not use the accessory setting, listen to the radio or use any other devices that could drain the car battery.
Avoid overheating. While running the air conditioner, drivers should keep an eye on the control panel. If the vehicle starts to overheat, shut it off immediately and open the hood to allow the engine to cool off. The vehicle may need to be off for a minimum of 45 minutes.
Keep air flowing. If you cannot operate the vehicle’s air conditioning, open windows on both sides of the car to cross ventilate.
Seek shade when parked. Carry a windshield sunshade in your vehicle to provide some protection from the sun when your vehicle is parked.
Stay safe during standstill traffic. Staying in your vehicle is usually the safest option. If, however, the heat becomes too oppressive and traffic shows no signs of moving, consider seeking shelter in the shade. If there are trees or an overpass nearby that would provide shade, take a break and give your body time to cool off, but stay safely away from traffic.
To avoid vehicle issues, AAA recommends motorists take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility, such as one of the more than 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip.
“While the overall lifespan of vehicles has increased over the years, AAA research has shown that older vehicles are four times more likely than newer vehicles to encounter a problem serious enough to require a tow to a repair facility,” said AAA Kansas’ Burgett.
At the first sign of a mechanical problem, motorists should try to safely move their vehicle as far off the shoulder or road as possible and turn on their flashing hazard lights. Distracted drivers often disregard vulnerable vehicles on roadsides and those people inside them.
In addition to wreaking havoc on your car, high temperatures can quickly claim lives. On a 95-degree day, a car can heat up to over 180-degrees. Nationwide, more than 1,000 children have died in hot cars since 1990 – that’s an average of 38 fatalities per year. Studies have shown about 56% of child hot car deaths were caused by adults forgetting the children, and 26% of victims were playing in an unattended vehicle.
“In the summer heat, a vehicle’s interior can reach lethal temperatures very quickly. In fact, a car can heat up by 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes and become deadly, causing a child’s internal organs to shut down if left unattended inside,” said AAA Kansas’ Steward.
To date, 11 children have died from vehicular heatstroke in 2022, according to KidsandCars.org.
AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to more than 62 million members nationwide and more than 350,000 members in Kansas. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. AAA is a non-stock, membership corporation working on behalf of motorists, who can map a route, access a COVID travel restriction map, find local gas prices and electric vehicle charging stations, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app (AAA.com/mobile) for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information on joining or renewing a Membership, visit www.AAA.com.