Keeping Your cool in the Summer Heat

High temperatures, longer days, and kids out of school can bring fun things like summer vacations, day trips, and extra family time. They can also bring safety hazards and driving challenges. Summer is meant to be enjoyed, so don’t let car troubles get in the way. Instead, follow these simple tips for care-free summer driving.

Make safe driving your primary focus in hot temperatures.

Most people know that pets and kids are particularly vulnerable to temperature spikes in vehicle. That’s why you should NEVER leave them in the car alone for ANY period of time. But some people don’t realize the general burn or dehydration risks that all drivers and passengers are prone to in the heat.

A 2005 Stanford study showed that vehicle temperatures can rise by an average of 40 degrees in one hour (80% of the temperature rise happens in the first 30 minutes)![1] This means that, no matter your age or health you should plan ahead to keep your car cooler and be prepared to deal with the elements just in case.

One thing you can do is bring your car in for an inspection before the weather really heats up. A professional can give your engine a once-over, top off all your fluids, and check your air-conditioning to make sure there won’t be any problems cooling down.

You can also help keep your car cool with simple tricks, like cracking a window and parking in the shade when possible. A sunscreen over the windows can be particularly helpful if you have leather seats.

Finally, keep with an emergency kit in the trunk. Stock it with: water, nonperishable snacks, a flashlight, and other essentials (like the ones listed on NAPA’s recommendations for what makes up a good summer emergency kit[2]). It’s crucial for ensuring a safe drive if you’re travelling any large distance.

Plan ahead on family vacations and long drives.

Even if you stay safe in warm weather, it can still be difficult to avoid meltdowns and mutiny if you decide to take any faraway road-trips. Utilizing a few easy travel hacks can go a long way in saving you gas money and your sanity.

Be mindful of travel times. Many travelers think the quickest way from point A to point B is leaving late in the evening and driving all night, but that isn’t always true. Many road crews work late night shifts to complete roadwork. That may mean unexpected delays for you and your family. Driving at night can also mean delays if you have to stop to rest to prevent drowsiness. Instead, plan ahead to avoid rush hours and use simple apps (like Waze) to get real-time notifications about accidents, construction, and delays.

Figure in extra time for travel. It can be tempting to set a hard deadline to get to your destination. Then you get frustrated when bathroom stops and lunchtimes take longer than expected. This makes an already tense car ride even more stressful. Do yourself a favor and allow some wiggle room when you’re planning your travel times. Sometimes those unanticipated stops can create some of the sweetest memories, so don’t be too quick to pass them up.

Bring along a few pre-planned car activities to cut down on screen time. When giving the kids tablets in the car, it’s a good idea to help them take regular breaks from electronic entertainment. Mini chalk boards, small block sets, and sticker books are all fun activities for small kids, Magnetic checker sets or playing cards are good options for the older ones. You can find a variety of books-on-tape at the library, and even some affordable family-friendly podcasts online.

Summer is a great time to enjoy the open road with your family, or even to roll down your windows and do your best to enjoy the morning commute to work. Don’t miss out on the good weather—just plan ahead. You’ll be happy you did.

[1] “Parked cars get dangerously hot, even on cool days, Stanford study finds.” (2005, July 05). Stanford Medicine News Center

[2] Palermo, Nick “Summer Emergency Car Kit: What’s In Yours?” NAPA Know How Blog (accessed May 15, 2017).


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