Mercury Rising

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FOR the past few weeks, the thermometer has been showing signs of life. The readings have been going past 36 degrees Centigrade but it feels way much hotter than that. I see more cars, both old and new, at the gas stations with their hoods up and water being poured on to the radiator. In some online forums, I have been reading about motorists complaining about the airconditioning (A/C) system of their vehicles starting to falter when they are in heavy traffic.

So the question now is: what can we do to help our cars cope with this kind of hot weather?

For starters, I would recommend opening the hood of your vehicle after parking it. Why? Opening of the hood lets the heat from the engine bay escape. But first, leave the engine running while hood is up. This will help the engine cool down and it is better to shut down the engine after it has cooled down properly.

For vehicles with automatic transmissions, the AT fluid passes through the bottom portion of the radiator to help cool it. So if your vehicle overheats, that could also harm the AT besides the engine.


If your vehicle’s radiator cap is almost two years old, change it. This simple piece of equipment plays an important part in the cooling system but it is neglected almost 99 percent of the time.  In one occasion, a vehicle owner brought overheating matters to me and the first thing I did was to check the radiator cap. I replaced it with an OEM unit and ran the car for three hours with A/C on. There was no overheating anymore.

Never ever remove the water thermostat. This is piece of equipment is never checked or even worse, removed because some motorists say it’s useless. Big mistake if you remove it. Change it often too.

When you have your car cleaned, ask the radiator and condenser fins be cleaned too. Any debris in the radiator and condenser fins can affect cooling efficiency.

Now this may sound a bit awkward, but if you have just been stuck in heavy traffic, you could park your vehicle at a gas station and open its hood to let the engine heat escape. You could also pour water onto the  radiator to help cool things. Seems a bit drastic, but with the heat nowadays every little measure counts.

Another way to help your car deal with overheating is to use a premixed coolant. Using water is okay but coolant has a higher boiling point and has additives to prevent corrosion of the vehicle’s cooling system. Coolant is a bit more expensive but works way better than plain water.

Also, if you are planning to have an oil change make sure the inside of your vehicle’s engine is clean. Any gunk inside the engine can affect the performance of the engine. And the longer you stay in traffic, have your vehicle’s engine oil changed earlier, because the time in traffic plus the heat will wear down the oil faster. If your are planning to use an additive or friction modifier for your engine, just make sure the inside of your engine is clean. Or you can upgrade your oil to a synthetic type, which not only reduces friction but also cleans the inside of an engine.

Now if your car has been sitting under the sun and you need to drive off, follow these steps: start your vehicle; open all the doors or the windows (if the location is safe and there are no security risks); turn on the blower and let the hot air out; and turn on the A/C after a while at medium setting. After a while, close all the doors and windows. This procedure prevents the A/C from being shocked to work.

Now for the driver – keeping yourself well hydrated is very important. Just because it’s cold inside your vehicle doesn’t mean you don’t need to drink water. We may often neglect the signs of dehydration like fatigue. Dehydration can cause a person to be disoriented, and this can happen even without a person being aware of it. This can be a recipe for an accident. So always have a bottle of drinking water inside your car.

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