Vacation driving tips for the dog days of summer

Hot weather driving precautions

Summer is here, and many drivers will be hitting the road for vacations and weekend get a ways.

“Hot weather brings unique challenges,” said Ray Palermo, director of public relations for auto insurer, Response Insurance. “It can present dangerous conditions for both the vehicle and its occupants.”

Each summer sees more than 7 million car breakdowns on the road, and Palermo suggests that most summer breakdowns can be easily avoided.

Before heading out, be sure you check out the basics, including: oil, transmission fluid, windshield washer, battery level and strength, tire pressure (including the spare), cooling system (which should be flushed and refilled at least every two-years), belts and hoses and have a well-equipped emergency kit and tool box in the trunk.

“Drivers need to stay cool as well,” noted Palermo. “Our studies have shown that 75 percent of drivers are fearful of encountering road rage, and 37 percent said they had personally experienced it in the previous 6-months.” Don’t escalate aggression on the road by responding to it. Stop periodically to refresh yourself and take along moist towelettes and water.

When driving in hot weather, it’s particularly important to keep an eye on the lights and gauges. If your temperature gauge moves up, turn off your air conditioner and turn on your vehicle’s heater to its highest and hottest setting. It will be uncomfortable, but it will help draw some of the heat away from the engine. If you are stopped in traffic, put the car in “park” and lightly step on the gas to help circulate coolant. If the temperature light goes on or if the gauge enters the red zone, immediately pull off the road to a safe spot, well away from traffic. Do not drive any farther—not even to the next exit. Driving with an overheated engine can cause serious damage to the engine.

Do not attempt to remove the radiator cap itself. The pressurized coolant is extremely hot and will spray out with great force. Do not pour water over the radiator or engine, since a dramatic change in temperature could cause damage. After the engine cools a bit, add a 50-50 mix of coolant and water to the reservoir to bring it up to its proper level.

Even when not stranded due to a breakdown, summer heat can pose dangers. Never leave a child or pet in a parked car in summer heat. Even an outside temperature in the ’80s can quickly bring a car interior to well more than 140 degrees.

Bring a cell phone for emergency calls, but don’t use it while driving. Response’s studies have shown that driving distractions have become the No. 1 fear on the road.

Available at are two free brochures, Driving Tips for Hot Weather and Hitting the Road Safely, and other information.

From the June 29-July 5, 2005, issue

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