Driving in Hot Weather: Dos and Don’ts

Driving in Hot Weather

The British summer. It might not always be a constant stream of sunshine and high temperatures, but when it does heat up, it changes the way we drive and how our cars behave on the road. Driving in hot weather is a different experience altogether.

Whether you’re hoping for a few more sunny days in the UK or planning a trip to a warmer destination, it’s essential to be prepared. Both you and your car can suffer from heat exhaustion.

To make your summer road trips enjoyable and hassle-free, it’s crucial to follow these dos and don’ts. Here’s to a great summer on the road!

What You Should DO For Your Car

DO Keep an Eye on Engine Coolant Levels

Engine coolant is crucial, especially in extreme weather. It’s a blend of water and antifreeze/coolant that stops your car’s radiator system from freezing in winter and overheating in summer.

Before long trips, check that the coolant levels are between the min and max markers on the tank. Remember, only top up the coolant when the engine is cool. Opening the tank while the engine is still warm can cause hot liquid to spray out, which is dangerous.

DO Check Your Tyres

Tyre maintenance is vital in hot weather. Heat causes tyre pressure to increase, leading to potential overinflation. Know your vehicle’s optimal tyre pressure and regularly check it.

DO Check Your Tyres

Overinflated tyres can burst, posing a serious risk. Also, inspect your tyres for external damage and get repairs done promptly, as existing damage can worsen in hot conditions.

DO Top Up Your Oil

The oil in your car plays a significant role in regulating engine temperature. High temperatures can reduce oil levels and alter its consistency, impacting engine performance.

To check the oil, use the dipstick method: pull out the dipstick, wipe it, dip it back in, and then check the oil level against the max and min markers. Always do this with the engine off and cooled down for at least 10 minutes.

DO Make Sure Your Car’s Battery is Up to the Job

Your car’s battery needs extra attention in hot weather. Prolonged exposure to heat can strain the battery. Before the summer heat hits, it’s wise to have your battery inspected and, if necessary, replaced.

DO Make Sure Your Car's Battery is Up to the Job

This precaution is especially important if you’re planning long trips in warm climates. Additionally, carrying jump leads is a smart move when travelling, providing a backup in case of battery failure.

By keeping on top of these maintenance tasks, you can help ensure your car is ready for whatever the summer weather has in store, making your journeys safer and more enjoyable.

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What You Should DO For You

DO Decide Between Air Con and Open Windows

When it gets hot, you might be torn between using the air conditioning or rolling down the windows. It’s best not to use both simultaneously, as this can lead to unnecessary fuel consumption.

Car aircon

At speeds below 30 mph, open windows are more efficient. However, at higher speeds, switch to air conditioning. Open windows increase wind resistance, causing your car to burn more fuel to maintain speed.

DO Invest in a Windscreen Shield

A windscreen shield can be a lifesaver on hot days. It’s a simple yet effective way to keep your car’s interior from overheating when parked in the sun.

By reflecting sunlight away, these shields help maintain a cooler temperature inside your car, making it much more comfortable to return to after a day out in the sun. They’re especially useful when shaded parking isn’t available.

DO Stay Hydrated

Hydration is key, especially in hot conditions. Dehydration can lead to discomfort, irritability, and reduced concentration, which is dangerous when driving. Always have a good supply of water in your car. It’s advisable to take breaks and hydrate regularly.

Pro Tip

Invest in a reusable water bottle. Avoid plastic bottles in hot weather as they can release harmful chemicals into the water when heated.

Reusable bottles are not only better for the environment but also ensure you have safe, taste-free water to drink.

DO Put on Sun Cream

It’s a lesser-known fact that the sun’s rays can penetrate car windows, making you vulnerable to sunburn and even sunstroke while driving. Often, the effect of the sun is only noticeable after you’ve exited the car.

Sun Cream

To prevent this, apply sun cream before your journey and keep some in the car for reapplication (only when the car is safely parked). Don’t forget to offer it to any passengers too!

By taking these simple steps, you can ensure a more comfortable and safer driving experience during the hot summer months. Remember, your personal well-being is as important as the condition of your car.

What You Should NOT DO For Your Car

DON’T Let Your Car Overheat

In the UK, where extended periods of hot weather are uncommon, a heatwave can test your car’s limits. Long drives in high temperatures increase the risk of your car overheating.

Be vigilant about the signs of overheating. Modern cars typically have a temperature gauge or a warning light indicating overheating. Familiarise yourself with your car’s indicators by consulting the manual.

DON'T Let Your Car Overheat

If you notice anything unusual, like steam from the engine, it’s vital to pull over safely, let the car cool down, and then cautiously top up the coolant. Always seek professional help if you’re unsure about handling car issues.

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DON’T Allow Fuel Levels to Get Too Low

Managing your fuel levels is more crucial in hot weather. Heat can cause fuel to evaporate faster, meaning your car might run out of fuel sooner than expected.

Don’t wait until your fuel warning light comes on; it’s better to refill when the tank reaches about a quarter full. This proactive approach prevents the unpleasant situation of being stranded in hot weather due to an empty fuel tank.

DON'T Allow Fuel Levels to Get Too Low

Always err on the side of caution and refuel earlier than you might in cooler conditions.

DON’T Cause Any Unnecessary Wear and Tear

In hot weather, it’s even more important to practice good driving habits. Avoid coasting, harsh braking, and rapid acceleration.

These habits can be particularly harmful when your car is already under stress from high temperatures. The heat can intensify any pre-existing issues in your vehicle, so it’s best to drive carefully and avoid adding extra strain.

DON’T Assume Your Air Con System is Up to the Job

Considering the air conditioning system is not frequently used in the UK’s typically cooler climate, it might not be ready for a sudden heatwave. If your air-con hasn’t been active for a while, don’t just assume it will handle prolonged use in the heat.

It’s a good idea to have the system checked, especially before embarking on long journeys. A minor issue, like a clog, can significantly reduce its effectiveness. Getting it checked in advance can save you from discomfort and ensure a cool, pleasant drive.

By avoiding these common mistakes and taking good care of your vehicle, you can enjoy a smoother and more comfortable journey, even in the hottest weather. Remember, a well-maintained car is key to a stress-free summer drive.

What You Should NOT DO For You

DON’T Leave Children or Pets in the Car

Never leave children or pets in a parked car during hot weather, not even for a short time. The temperature inside a car can rise rapidly, posing serious health risks.

DON'T Leave Children or Pets in the Car

Cracking a window open is not sufficient to keep the interior cool. If you’re travelling with children or pets and need to leave the car, take them with you. If that’s not possible, it’s safer to leave them at home.

DON’T Underestimate the Power of Pollen

For the 13 million hay fever sufferers in the UK, driving in summer can be challenging. Hay fever symptoms like sneezing and itchy eyes can impair your driving ability.

Always carry non-drowsy hay fever medication in your car, especially when driving through areas with high pollen counts. Ensure that any medication you take is safe for drivers, as some can cause drowsiness or impair your ability to operate machinery safely.

DON’T Leave Anything Smelly or Sticky in the Car

Avoid leaving food or drink in your car. In the heat, foods can start to decompose quickly, leading to unpleasant odours. Also, fizzy drinks can overheat and potentially explode, leaving a sticky mess.

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DON'T Leave Anything Smelly or Sticky in the Car

While it’s important to carry snacks and drinks, especially on long drives to avoid hunger or dehydration, make sure to consume them or take them with you when leaving the car.

Eating in your car is fine as long as you park safely first. Just remember to clean up after!

DON’T Forget Your Sunglasses!

Wearing sunglasses while driving in bright sunlight is not just a style choice but a safety necessity. Sun glare can significantly impair your vision and reaction time on the road.

Additionally, sunlight can highlight any dirt or marks on your windscreen, further obstructing your view. So, ensure your windscreen is clean, and always keep a pair of sunglasses handy to combat glare and maintain clear visibility.

By paying attention to these aspects, you can make your summer driving experience more comfortable and safer. Remember, it’s the small precautions that can make a big difference in ensuring a pleasant journey in hot weather.

Driving in Hot Weather

You’re now equipped with the essential dos and don’ts for driving in hot weather. With a bit of luck, you’ll soon have the opportunity to put these tips into practice during a warm British summer or on a sun-drenched holiday abroad.

Planning a Holiday?

If your summer plans involve travelling further afield and include driving, don’t forget to check out our comprehensive guide to driving on holiday. It’s packed with additional advice to ensure your road trips are not only safe and stress-free but also enjoyable.

From navigating unfamiliar roads to understanding different driving laws, our guide covers it all, helping you to make the most of your driving adventures.

Remember, whether you’re just popping to the shops on a sunny day or embarking on a cross-country road trip, being prepared and mindful of these dos and don’ts can make all the difference in ensuring a comfortable and safe journey. So, keep these tips in mind, and here’s to many happy and sunny drives ahead!