Heat Is Affecting Vehicles in So Many Ways

Experts suggest keeping an eye on systems, as well as on mechanics
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2023 6:40 PM CDT
Heat Is Affecting Vehicles in So Many Ways
A thermostat reads over 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 Celsius) in the car of AP photographer Matt York in Phoenix on July 21.   (AP Photo/Matt York)

This summer's extreme heat is breaking vehicles in ways drivers might not expect. Some of the parts affected have been more likely in the past to have problems in winter. The high temperatures are damaging windshield wipers, tires, and batteries for starters, Jalopnik reports. It's not good for mechanics, either. More:

  • Wipers: "You're driving around in 112-degree temperature, you've got heat reflecting off the glass, and that causes the rubber components of a wiper blade to break down," says Doc Watson of Bosch Diagnostics in Austin. And it's not just the rubber breaking down that's a problem. The plastic part is, too, which can lead to a damaged windshield. Before a driver knows it, "the wiper blade breaks and then you've got this metal arm scratching the glass," he says. The scratches can be impossible to get out, meaning the only solution is a new windshield. Replacing wipers is much cheaper.
  • Tires: The oil in tires can evaporate in extreme heat. Tires more than five years old might need replacing, per WDEF. Flats are happening. Watson suggests keeping an eye on tire pressure by checking it in the morning before the day heats up to get an accurate reading, per KXAN.
  • Batteries: Mechanics recommend checking batteries, too. Heat like this can raise the temperature under the hood as high as 230 degrees, which can cause battery fluid to evaporate and kill the battery itself.

Repair shops say they're busy, with cooling systems and air conditioning compressors failing and radiators cracking, among other problems, per KXAS. Brake fluid can be affected, causing the brakes to feel mushy when applied. Aram's Auto Repair in Fresno, California, says it's tough to keep up with demand, per the Los Angeles Times. "Not only do we have customers that are having issues, but the efficiency of the technicians in the shop physically goes down," says Billy Catching, the general manager. He dealt with heat exhaustion and missed time himself after working on his car while off duty. One employee who couldn't take the heat quit and moved to Oceanside, Catching says. (More extreme heat stories.)

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