AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s no surprise that the summer months in Texas can do significant damage to your vehicle. But as Austin continues its second-longest stretch of 100° days in recorded history, car technicians are finding some unusual vehicle issues from the extremely high temperatures and heat indexes.
Doc Watson works as a national training manager with Bosch Diagnostics. This summer, he said Bosch’s teams of car technicians and vehicle specialists are seeing typical summertime issues, like dead car batteries and flat tires courtesy of the heat.
However, he said crews in Texas and along the west coast are recording unusual vehicle complications due to extensive heat waves, beyond the already high summer temperatures these regions traditionally see.
“People don’t stop to think about wiper blades — they don’t need them until it rains, right?” Watson said. “You’re driving around in 112° temperature, you’ve got heat reflecting off the glass, and that causes the rubber components of a wiper blade to break down.”
Both heat and humidity can add extra wear and tear to the rubber components of the blades, which have a typical lifespan between 12-18 months. But it isn’t just the rubber suffering from the relentless heat, but the plastic itself.
“With these extreme temperatures that you guys are seeing, it’s the plastic breaking down off the wiper blade itself, and people not realizing that that’s happened until it’s too late,” he said. “The wiper blade breaks and then you’ve got this metal arm scratching the glass.”
In Texas, Arizona and California, technicians are reporting an emergence of “brake fade” cases in cars. While extreme outdoor temperatures can linger 100° and above, temperatures under the hood of vehicles during the summer can reach up to 230°.
Brake fluids inside the cylinder under the hood of the car can absorb moisture, with the heat under the hood causing that moisture to expand within the fluid. When that happens, stepping on the brake pedal can feel “mushy,” with the vehicle owner needing to take the car in for maintenance.
Watson recommended car owners keep a checklist of key vehicle parts to monitor during the summer months. Those include:
- Car batteries: Traditionally, car batteries last between three and five years. Amid excessive heat spells, temperatures under the hood of a vehicle reach up to 230°, which can lead to battery fluid evaporations and dead batteries. Watson suggests car owners have their batteries tested by a technician during the summer to get a condition status.
- Tires: Low tire pressure is exacerbated by hot asphalt on Texas roadways. Watson encouraged car owners to purchase a tire pressure gauge and to test their vehicle’s tire pressure early in the morning while it’s still cool to ensure an accurate reading.
- Engine overflow tank? During the summer months, cooling an engine is critical. Watson said when car owners check underneath the hood, they’ll find a plastic overflow tank with a graduated scale. If it looks low, he suggested adding antifreeze to aid your engine.
- Wiper blades: Check wiper blades during dry spells (and before rain storms) to make sure they’re properly working and not deteriorating. If they show signs of wear and tear, replace them and make sure they’re upgraded every 12-18 months.
- Oil changes: Most newer vehicles require an oil change every 5,000 to 7,000 miles. However, remote starting a vehicle and running the air conditioning works the engine without adding any mileage to the vehicle. As a result, Watson suggested not waiting until you hit that 5,000 to 7,000-mile range if you often use remote start on your vehicle during the summer or winter months.
“People aren’t changing oil regularly like they think they are,” he said. “People need to pay more attention to them because these engines will go many miles — 200, 300,000 miles — as long as they’re maintenance correctly. That’s big with this extreme heat.”