How to prepare for driving in hot weather
Get a service
If it’s been a while between auto services, ensuring your car is in tip-top shape is one the best things you can do to prepare ahead of any road trip, but especially a summer one. 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. “Maintaining your car is one of the most important things you can do to keep heat-related problems at bay,” Smith days.
Regular servicing will also ensure your car isn’t thirsty. 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 significant damage,” Smith says. “And making sure your wiper fluid is topped up will ensure you can keep your windscreen clean, particularly when driving along dusty roads.”
And if you turn your car air conditioning on and you get that musty smell, he says you may need an anti-bacterial service.
Carry an emergency kit
While there’s never an ideal time for your car to breakdown, it’s important to always be prepared. Do you have what you need in your car in case of a breakdown, such as jumper cables, a flashlight or even a jerry can? An emergency kit is something you should carry in your car year-round, but if you’re planning a hot-weather road trip, be sure you’ve got extra bottles of water to keep you hydrated, as well as snacks and a phone charger. “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 pop the hood.” Smith says.
He says it’s also important to check that your Emergency Roadside Assistance is up to date so that you’re covered in case things go awry on the road.
Heat can also impact our ability to drive and concentrate so try to plan for regular stops. “An increase in temperature can effect a driver’s ability to react to potentially dangerous situations,” Smith says. “And it is often acknowledged that drivers are more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident when they are tired, angry, flustered, uncomfortable or exhausted.”
If you sense yourself getting fatigued or becoming drowsy, pull over for a power nap, stop for lunch or just get out and stretch your legs. This will help to break up the drive and keep you alert behind the wheel.
Never leave kids or pets alone in the car
Leaving a child in a hot car – even briefly – can be fatal. On a hot day, temperatures inside a car quickly climb, sometimes soaring 20-30 degrees higher than outside air. In Victoria, it is illegal to leave a child unattended in a car, with penalties including a hefty fine ($4,030), prison or both.
It is also an offense to leave an animal unattended inside a vehicle for more than 10 minutes when the outside temperature is 28 degrees Celsius or above. For doing so, drivers could face a fine of $3304.40.