Extreme Weather Warning – Your Essential Guide to Safe Driving in a Heatwave

Extreme temperatures make car breakdowns more likely. At high temperatures, your tyres can fail, your engine can overheat, and your car battery can die. It’s for this reason that, during heatwaves, the RAC generally responds to 15% more breakdowns than usual.

This summer, the Met Office has issues Amber and Red warnings for extreme heat. They’re warning motorists about “delays on roads and road closures… with significant welfare issues for those who experience even moderate delays.”

Ideally, you should avoid travelling at all when it’s excessively hot. But if your journey’s unavoidable, there are some extra steps you can take to keep you and your passengers as safe as possible.

Safe Summer Driving – Essential Things to Pack for Every Journey

These things aren’t necessarily to keep you cool in the car. They’re more to keep you safe in the event of a breakdown:

  • Every passenger in the car should have their own water bottle. You should also pack a camping-style water container, so you can top everyone up if need be. Also consider bringing isotonic sport drinks, to rapidly hydrate anyone suffering from heatstroke.
  • If you breakdown, you might be waiting a while for recovery. So pack hats or umbrellas for you and all your passengers. That way, even if you can’t find shade, you can at least protect yourselves from direct sunlight.
  • Non-perishable food items, such as cereal bars, can help keep hunger at bay while you await rescue.
  • Charging packs. You’ll need a charged phone to call your breakdown provider. Nowadays most people charge their phones every day. But bring a charging pack too, so you’ll have some extra juice just in case.

Pre-Journey Car Checks to Help Avoid a Breakdown

  • Fluid levels. When your engine’s still cold, check your coolant levels and your oil levels. Top up your oil if it’s too low, and top up your coolant if it’s not between the min and max levels.
  • Check your charge levels if you can. If your battery’s three years or older, consider getting a replacement before you start a your summer road trip.
  • Check for any signs of wear and tear. Even the slightest crack can cause a serious blowout when you’re travelling at high speeds in high temperatures. And like with the battery, if your tyres are more than three years old, consider changing them for the summer. Older tyres may struggle to cope with higher temperatures.

How to Quickly Cool Down a Hot Car or Van

Should you open windows or use the air-con? The correct answer is: Both! But it’s important to do things in the right way and in the right order.

When you first get into your vehicle, it’ll be full of hot air. You need to replace that hot air with circulating cool air. Here’s how:

  1. Turn the air-con to its coldest setting, and open your windows.
  2. Only use the lower blowers to begin with. Hot air rises, and doing this will blow the hot air upwards and out of your open windows.
  3. After a couple of minutes, the air inside your car will be cooler than the air outside your car. At this point, you can shut your windows.
  4. Once your windows are shut, turn the higher blowers on and switch to a circulated air setting. And there you have it! A pleasant circulation of cool air inside your car or van.

Be Prepared for the Worst

If you take necessary precautions, you should be able to avoid a breakdown this summer.

But you can’t always see these things coming. So it’s vitally important that you’re prepared for the worst.

Above we listed the key items you should pack for every journey that’ll help you keep safe and cool in the event of a breakdown.

You could also consider adding breakdown cover to your comprehensive car or van insurance policy. That way, in the worst case scenario, you’ll be able to depend on roadside rescue as soon as it’s available.


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