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The recent heatwave in the south has had a dramatic impact on everything, even your automobile. Did you know these intense temperatures can impact many of your car’s components? Everyone knows that heat makes things expand and cold makes items shrink, but how does this impact a vehicle?
Understanding Thermal Expansion
If you have hardwood floors in your home, you’ll notice the wood creeks in the winter months, but it’s silent in the summer. Your vehicle has similar issues, and those squeaks can be a sign of real trouble. You likely made coffee this morning for breakfast. You put those grounds into the basket, which expanded when heat and moisture hit them. This is called thermal expansion.
When the temperature increases, it causes component changes in whatever is affected. Many metal components in your car are directly impacted by the rise in mercury, including things like your engine block and calipers. The process that occurs with these expansions might be small and take time, but when the situation is extreme, it can cause problems.
Overheating and Performance Loss
The heart of your vehicle is the engine; without this vital component, your car won’t run. When temperatures are at an extreme, it can affect the performance of your engine. The engine is already 195 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit under the hood, but the cooling system must work overtime when it’s scathing outside. An issue within the cooling system, such as a leak, can cause total engine failure.
Worse yet, it can cause irreversible damage to things like the block or cylinder head. Another major issue that heat causes under the hood is that it can affect lubrication. When the oil in your car faces extreme temperatures, it will thin out.
An oil that’s too thin can’t protect all the moving parts. This will cause unnecessary wear and tear on components that are critical to performance, and it will shorten the engine’s lifespan.
Fading and Reduced Stopping Power
Another area of your vehicle that feels pressure from extreme temperatures is your braking system. When you push the brake pedal, there’s friction from the pads and rotors that’s used to stop the car. Consequently, this friction creates heat. Under normal conditions, the heat dissipates quickly from these components. However, you may notice some fading during a heat wave when trying to stop.
The problem lies within the brake fluid. See, the liquid will simmer when it gets too hot, and this causes tiny gas bubbles to form. It reduces stopping power and may cause the brake to feel spongy when engaged.
Impact on the Coolant and Transmission Fluid
Numerous fluids are required to make a vehicle function properly. Sadly, extreme temperatures can impact the effectiveness of such liquids. Take, for instance, your coolant. This fluid helps to regulate the engine temperature and keeps it from overheating. If the coolant isn’t doing its job, it can cause engine damage.
Another fluid that’s affected by extreme heat is the transmission. Excessive heat causes this liquid to break down, which causes the lubrication properties to decrease. The outcome is shifting issues or slipping and reduced fuel efficiency. There can also be complete transmission failure.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of heat is the effect on metal components, but the wiring in your automobile can also be impacted. Did you know that extreme temperatures can cause wires to short or malfunction? If the situation is right, these shorts can lead to things like electrical fires.
Increases in mercury can also impact the car battery. There are chemical reactions that take place inside the battery, and it can cause it to deteriorate at a quicker pace. The outcome is reduced battery life or the possibility of total failure. No one wants to sit along the side of the road during a heat wave, so make sure your battery is tested and in good health.
Dashboard Damage and Cabin Comfort
The scorching temperatures don’t only affect the mechanics of your car, but they can also have a dramatic impact on the car’s interior. Do you put sun visors over the windshield when you park in direct sunlight? You probably see many of these in parking lots, and they’re not a bad investment.
These visors help reflect the heat away from the car, preserving the dash and making it easier to cool down the vehicle. The UV rays from the sun are powerful and can damage and fade out the colors in your dash and upholstery. Aesthetics isn’t the only concern, as the AC system must work overtime to keep the cabin cool and comfortable.
The extra work puts unnecessary strain on the system and can wear out components prematurely. The last thing you want is your AC to fail on the hottest days of summer.
Beating the Heat for a Better Ride
At Carolina Auto Service, we see firsthand the damage that can be caused by extreme heat. Not one part of your vehicle isn’t impacted by scorching temperatures. So, how do you prevent damage when you can’t control the elements?
Preparing for the weather and ensuring your vehicle gets proper maintenance is key. Maintaining things like the cooling system, the engine temperature, and your braking system are good places to start. We’re here to help you beat the heat and keep your car running smoothly.
Our experienced technicians are ready to perform thorough inspections, make necessary repairs, and offer expert advice to ensure your ride remains reliable, safe, and enjoyable, no matter how hot it gets.