How to maintain your car during hot weather

Car driving on hot day at sunset

Nyasha Jokomo

Posted December 12, 2023

Maintain your vehicle and tyres and be prepared for hot weather to avoid the risk of breaking down this summer.

Not only does extreme heat make driving less pleasant; it can also put additional strain on your vehicle, accelerating the wear and tear of your car and putting you at increased risk of a breakdown

While living in Australia means driving in the heat can be unavoidable, by taking a few extra precautions, you can avoid heat-related breakdowns and car damage. 

Here’s how heat impacts your car, how to prepare for hot-weather driving, and what to do if, in a worst-case scenario, your car does overheat. 

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How hot weather affects your car 


Heat can put additional strain on everything from your tyres to your car battery. Make sure to book your car in for a service before you hit the road and have your mechanic carry out a full inspection including battery test at the start of the summer season.

Your battery may be affected by hot temperatures, which can impact your battery's vital liquids such as sulphuric acid and distilled water and weaken its charge. The heat can also speed up the corrosion process. Corrosion will irreversibly damage the internal structure of the battery.


Excess heat from the sun can wear out your tyres. As the temperature rises, the air pressure in your tyres increases. Over-inflation of tyres can interfere with braking and cause your tyre to wear out prematurely.

Under-inflated tyres are also problematic because they have more flex. This can contribute to heat build-up, making them more likely to wear and tear prematurely or possibly cause a tire blowout.

It’s always a good idea to check your trye pressure before any long drive because over- or under-inflated tyres will not only wear out faster but can also impact your car’s fuel efficiency and on-road performance. 

Check the tread depth on your tyres. On every tyre there is a small bar next to the letters TWI (tread wear indicator). If your tyres are worn close to or at this bar, it is time to replace them.

Incorrect wheel alignment is another cause of tyre wear, particularly the inner and outer edges. To check the tread on the inside edge of your front tyres, turn the steering wheel fully to the right or left, and if the tread is heavily worn, and the inside of the tyre is smooth, then it’s time to book in for a wheel alignment and new tyres

On hot days the road surface can become soft and sticky, particularly if it has been recently sealed. The heat can affect your tyre pressure, and change the road surface so try to avoid any potholes or cracks as you drive.


Close up of person checking tyre pressure

Always check your tyre pressure before heading off on a road trip. Image: Getty

How to prepare for driving in hot weather

Get a service 

If you’re about to embark on a road trip, particularly in summer, it’s important that your car is in a safe condition and roadworthy. Generally speaking, you should get your car serviced every 10,000km or six months. If it’s been a while between car services, this is a priority. Hot weather can lead to increased mechanical stress, placing additional strain not just on your battery and tyres, but on your engine and other components, such as belts and hoses, too.

Regular servicing will also protect your car’s engine and other components. Adequate coolant, engine oil and brake, air conditioning, power steering and wiper fluids are critical to the health and safety of your vehicle. 

If your car doesn’t have enough coolant, for example, it is possible the engine could overheat, which could cause considerable damage. Making sure your wiper fluid is topped up will ensure you can keep your windscreen clean, particularly when driving along dusty roads.

If you turn your car air conditioning on and you get a musty smell, you may need an anti-bacterial service or to replace the cabin/pollen filter.

If you’re planning a road trip, book early as any work identified will need to be completed prior to travel.

Carry an emergency kit

Always be prepared for a breakdown. Common issues include a flat tyre, dead battery, overheated engine or engine failure. Essential items to keep in your car include jumper leads, a torch, phone charger and even a jerry can.

An emergency kit is something you should carry in your car year-round. If you’re travelling long distances in extreme temperatures, it’s worth carrying extra coolant, gloves, and a rag/towel in case you need to open the bonnet. Drivers of older vehicles should also carry a litre of oil and check the oil level regularly during any long trip, topping up where necessary.

It’s also important to check that your Emergency Roadside Assistance is up to date and offers adequate protection, so that you’re covered in case you need emergency assistance.  


Emergency Roadside Assistance patrol checking car engine of person's car

If your car overheats, pull over and call for emergency roadside assistance. Image: Supplied

What to do if your car is overheating

Modern cars are equipped with various technologies designed to keep them running at the optimum temperature in any condition. But despite sophisticated cooling systems, heat sensors and computer-controlled fans, overheating can still happen. If you see the temperature gauge light come on, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so and turn off your engine. If you know how to check the coolant reservoir, check the fluid level and top up to the maximum level if required. Allow at least 15 minutes for the engine to cool. Check for leaks under the vehicle, or under the bonnet. These could be from radiator hoses, the radiator or coolant reservoir. If the coolant level remains at the maximum level and there are no leaks, continue to monitor the temperature gauge as you continue your journey. If in doubt, call for emergency road assistance.

Otherwise, it’s advisable to drive straight to your nearest mechanic or service station to address the overheating issue. If you breakdown on a freeway, pull over into the emergency lane and turn on your hazard lights. Remain in your vehicle, if it is safe to do so, and call for emergency roadside assistance.

Other signs that your car is overheating include the presence of smoke or steam coming out from under your bonnet, a bonnet that is hot to the touch, a loud ticking noise and coolant leaking on the ground.