Des Moines, IOWA --- The Iowa State Patrol is reminding motorists to take care during this summer’s current heat wave when traveling Iowa’s roadways.
When leaving on a trip, pack a summer travel kit that includes plenty of water and a well charged cell phone for emergency calls. Remember that even a short trip in extreme heat carries many of the same risks that come with longer trips in hot weather. Whether it’s a long awaited family vacation or a short trip across town, Iowans who need to drive in extreme heat are urged to play it safe.
- Check fluids! Check to be sure that your coolant levels, plus other fluid levels such as motor oil, transmission fluid, and brake fluid levels are full – but do not overfill fluids. Also remember to check belts and hoses for signs of excessive wear.
- Check your tires! Before operating your vehicle in extreme heat, check the condition of your tires and be sure tire air pressure is set at the manufacturer's recommended level. Tires with excessive wear or damaged treads are unsafe, particularly if operated on extremely hot roadways. Don’t forget to check air tire pressure as well. Under inflated tires are particularly prone to heat build-up, which can result in a blowout, putting you and others at risk of serious injury or death. The recommend tire air pressure is typically found on a plate or sticker inside the driver side door sill or in the owner’s manual.
- Maintain your vehicle! Have a trained, qualified mechanic check your car and perform preventive maintenance. Don’t put off maintenance that is due or overdue.
- Keep checking your lights and gauges! Even if your fluid levels and tires were fine before you left, problems can develop quickly while you are driving. Remember to check your dashboard gauges and look out for warning lights regularly. Also be attentive to any changes in handling or ride that might indicate a tire problem.
- Don’t idle for long! Avoid leaving your engine running without moving, except for routine and brief delays, such as waiting at red lights. If you find yourself completely stopped on a roadway for a lengthier delay, such as waiting for a crossing train or road construction delays, you can put your car in “Park” (if you have an automatic transmission) and step on the accelerator lightly to help circulate engine coolant. However, you should not “race the engine” at high speeds.
- Watch your engine temp! If your engine temperature begins to rise outside the normal range, approaching overheating, you might be able to reduce the load on your engine and help remove excessive heat by turning off the air conditioning and turning on your heater. This would rapidly make your vehicle too uncomfortable to tolerate for very long, but it could save your engine from overheating. If your temperature gauge does reach the red zone or an engine temperature warning light comes on, do not continue to drive. As soon as it can be safely accomplished, the driver needs to get the vehicle off the roadway, the further from traffic the better. Severe engine damage can result from overheating.
- Don’t get burned! If your vehicle does overheat, do not attempt to remove the radiator cap. Extremely hot and pressurized coolant can spray out violently, potentially causing severe burns. Also, even though it seems counterintuitive, do not pour water over a hot radiator or engine, as sudden, extreme changes in temperature can also cause engine damage.
- Remember to care for yourself, not just your car! In extremely hot weather, it’s not just your car that needs special attention – it’s you and your passengers as well. Bright sunshine and high temperatures can be very fatiguing, so take regular breaks on long drives and stay hydrated.
- Follow the rules of the road! Speeding always carries risks, but during extremely hot weather, driving at high speeds places particularly high demands on your vehicle’s tires and mechanical components. If you do have a sudden, catastrophic equipment failure, the risk of death or serious injury is much greater at higher speed. Regardless of the temperature, don’t forget to wear your seatbelt and keep kids securely fastened in approved child restraint devices.
If your vehicle overheats or breaks down on the side of the road and you choose to exit the vehicle, move to a safe location away from traffic. Standing near the roadway can create a dangerous situation for you and other motorists.
When thinking about safe driving in extreme heat, do not overlook the potentially deadly threat of heat in a parked car. NEVER leave a child unattended in a parked car, and never leave a pet in a parked car in hot weather. Even an outside temperature in the 80s can quickly bring the car’s interior temperature to lethal levels.