We're smack dab in the middle of summer, and while that may mean trips to the beach for some, almost everyone has to deal with scorching temperatures. Although the heat can help to create a good environment for off-roading adventures, it can also cause damage to a vehicle if you're not careful.
"Prolonged exposure to high temperatures is not only a threat to passengers, but a vehicle concern as well," said John Nielsen, managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair for AAA. "Knowing the dangers and preparing your vehicle for extreme heat can keep your vehicle running smoothly during the hot summer months."
Dangers of heat damage
One of the major areas of concern when it comes to heat damage is the engine. Over-heating is a real threat, as excessive heat and humidity can cause different parts of an engine to expand or put additional strain on the motor. It's not uncommon to see drivers pulled over on the side of the road in the heart of summer, waiting for their engines to cool down, but you should pay attention to how you're pushing a vehicle to ensure you are never in that position.
If you're ever participating in some off-road driving and hear a peculiar sound like bubbling or gurgling, pull over and shut the engine off immediately. These sounds can signify a motor that is much too hot, and driving on this motor can destroy an engine beyond repair. Allow the machinery under the hood to rest once you pull over - the radiator cap and other gear will likely be too hot to touch, and the interior fluid could have been transformed to dangerous steam in the heat.
You also need to keep an eye on the vehicle's battery. Heat can cause a lot of damage to the electrical core of a vehicle, and although there isn't much you can do to control temperatures, you can make sure other areas of the battery's maintenance are up to date to prevent factors from accumulating. Double check the battery to ensure it's mounted properly to reduce vibrations and test it to see what its life expectancy is. Heat can speed up the decline of a battery, so if you have one that is near the end of its life span you may want to keep a spare nearby.
Tires are another part of a vehicle that could be affected by the oppressive heat. High temperatures can lead to under-inflated tires, so be sure you're checking the pressure throughout the season and comparing it to what the vehicle manufacturer recommends.
How to prevent problems
Despite the potential for mechanical issues that come about when temperatures rise, there are many steps drivers can take to protect themselves and their off-road vehicles from harm. One of the easiest and most basic things you can do is consistently monitor coolant levels and replace the fluids when needed. Refresh these liquids and flush out the engine system periodically to ensure your vehicle is clean and efficient.
Last, but certainly not least, you should keep an eye on your air conditioning system. Even if you're not the type of driver who consistently uses the tool, it's important to periodically check on the HVAC system to make sure everything is working properly. Not only can a poorly functioning service be indicative of other problems under the hood, but you never know when an emergency will strike and you will need the amenity. Going off-road driving in the summer and getting stuck could leave you at the mercy of nature, and having the ability to take a break inside an air conditioned cabin could be just what you need.