Beat The Heat

Some tips and tricks to keep your car running smoothly and minimise the cost of maintenance this summer
Print Edition: July 2013

Freezing winters of the north to the smouldering summers of the plains and the pouring monsoons thrown in for good measure. This is what the Indian car owner has to take precautions against. It's bound to be hard work.

The effect that changes in weather and temperature have on your car are not noticeable. For example, bit pieces of the machinery, especially the rubber bits, contract in extreme winter and expand in the summer. And the result? Extreme wear and tear.

So, to minimise the effects that the Indian summer, the dry heat of the North or the humid weather of the South, has on your car, we give you a few pointers that will keep your car in good health, save you a neat sum and keep you and your passengers safe on the road.


1. Cooling system

Cars have become virtually free of maintenance in the past couple of decades. The days of keeping a tab on the radiator and coolant levels have passed. Even so, your car's engine does have an optimum temperature for getting the best performance.

Flush the radiator to rid it of any residual matter, such as rust or bits of metal that might have built up over time. Checking the coolant level is not too difficult either. You'll find that the coolant reservoir is marked with maximum level and minimum level indicators. However, the most important thing is the viscosity of the fluid. If it's too thin, then the coolant needs to be topped up.

It is a good idea to get the coolant replaced at least once a year. So, if the coolant in your car hasn't been changed for a while, then doing so just before the peak of summer sets in would help keep the system running better.

Further, an important component of the cooling system is the radiator, which uses a fan to regulate the coolant temperature. Hence, keeping the fins of the radiator clean is necessary.

2. Battery

High ambient temperatures is the main cause of battery trouble. This coupled with the fact that battery trouble is the main cause for a breakdown means you've got to give it some attention.

The air conditioner constantly battling the summer heat and the blower fan working overtime takes a toll on the battery. So get it checked before the summer or, if you haven't already, immediately.

Check the terminals and cables for corrosion and get these cleaned. Sulphuric acid, which usually builds up with use, corrodes the terminals and hurts the connection. This can lead to a dead battery. Further, batteries are more prone to losing electrolyte during the summer as a result of evaporation.

Since batteries don't necessarily show overt signs of wear or damage, get it replaced if it's four or more years old.

3. Engine oil

Apart from the cooling system, the engine oil plays an important role in protecting the engine . The oil keeps the engine lubricated and prevents wear and tear of moving parts such as the piston and the cylinder. However, over a period, engine oil loses viscosity and fine metal particles (from the moving parts) build up.

This affects lubrication and increases the heat caused by friction, damaging the engine or, in the worst case, leading to engine seizure.

Check the oil level in the engine using the dip stick and make sure to maintain the level recommended by the vehicle's manufacturer.

You can consider switching to synthetic engine oils available in the market, which perform better than regular mineral oils. However, synthetic oils are significantly costlier than regular oil.

4. Paint

Gleaming paint looks better on a car. Everybody says so. And nothing takes away this shine as leaving your car at the mercy of the summer sun. The paint will start to fade with constant exposure and accumulating pollutants can corrode even painted surfaces.

Wash the car regularly to remove dirt and other corrosive material. 'Pressure washing' will remove dirt from areas that are hard to clean, such as gaps between the windscreen and the body, under the bumpers and so on.

Using rubbing wax or polish once a month can prolong the life of the paint job, and that with less than half an hour's work.

Park the car in a shaded area whenever possible. If unavoidable, cover the car. It will reduce heat building up inside the car, which can damage the plastic bits inside. Covers are easily available and are relatively cheap.

5. Tyres

The four points of contact between a vehicle and the road, meaning the tyres if you did not guess, are very important. Maintain tyre pressure as recommended by the manufacturer. Driving on tyres with lower than optimum pressure will result in the weight of the car damaging the sidewall. In summers, it can also result in higher than normal temperatures in the tyres and lead to permanent damage.

Drastic variation in temperature between day and night can also damage tyres. The rubber expanding and contracting causes what is called 'dry rot' and leads to cracking of the tyre walls. Also, make sure to keep a check on if the tyres are balding.

6. Air filter

Dry weather and fast winds cause frequent dust storms in the summer, especially in the northern part of the country. This impacts the way the engine breathes. The air filter's job is to keep the dust and grime out of the air that enters the engine. A choked air passage results in a drop in fuel economy.

The air filter also needs fairly regular maintenance if you drive on dusty and gravelly roads. Change it immediately if required. The air filter is not an expensive component to change. A clean air filter helps the car breathe better and improves mileage.


>> Although most modern cars adjust for revs whenever you switch on the air conditioner, it is nonetheless advisable not to drive at low rpms as your engine might stall or result in poor cooling.

>> Do not switch on the air conditioner with the fresh air vent open. This will lead to hot air from outside the car mixing with the cool air of the cabin leading to reduced cooling.

>> Do not leave the vents open as moisture enters the unit through open vents over a period of time.

>> Avoid operating the air conditioner with insufficient refrigerant gas in the system. This will result in premature failure of the compressor. Regular servicing will help.

>> Do not check the air conditioning system for leaks with the pressure over 20kg/cm2. A very high refrigerant pressure might damage the the vehicle's air conditioning system.

>> Do not recharge your car AC's refrigerant without proper vacuuming of the system. Lack of vacuuming or improper vacuuming will result in less cooling.


Leave the doors open to let out hot air. During tests to find if paint colour makes a difference, all cars showed a drastic drop in temperatures, and hence cooling efficiency, after the doors were left open.

Parking in the shade can keep your car as much as 150C cooler than leaving it in the sun. Park with the front half in the shade and cover windshields with a white cloth.

Before starting the AC, set to maximum cooling. Then start the fan to circulate the air. Keeping too low a temperature is not only unhealthy, but also bad for the environment.

Courtesy: Auto Bild

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