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The Hazards of Heat

High summer temperatures may be a welcome change for those looking to relax on the beach this summer, but higher temperatures pose an often hidden risk, especially to vehicles and road safety.

The most vulnerable parts of the vehicle in extreme temperatures are tyres, brakes and shock absorbers, all of which are crucial to keeping a moving vehicle under control and stopping safely.

Driving with tyres with low pressure increases the probability of a blowout by up to 60%, shortens its life by up to 15% and increases fuel consumption by up to 7%.

tyre-blowout

With the intense external heat, the engine loses up to 15% power and potentially even more as it drives the cooling and air conditioning systems.

The brakes overheat, this in turn can increase consumption of brake fluid and can cause a phenomenon known as “fading”, which reduces the ability to slow the vehicle down.

In order to reduce these factors and keep your vehicle at its optimum, frequent checks of tyres, brakes, shock absorbers, oil, brake and coolant levels, the battery, lights and air conditioning should all be checked regularly, and especially before a long journey.

If this seems like a daunting task then you can always call into your local maintenance garage and ask them to do the checks for you. Many garages already offer a comprehensive summer service, although many drivers don´t realise that this is equally as important as a winter service, and so the heightened risks continue.

Aside from the safety aspects of the vehicle, one common maintenance call during summer is for the failure of air conditioning units. Experts say that these should be checked at least once a year and before the summer, as for most of the cooler months the units lay dormant and can fail over time without being noticed. Sometimes, the presence of an unpleasant odour is an indicator of a failure of the air conditioning.

Air conditioning that is working too hard can not only increase the mechanical strain. An average air conditioning unit will cool the vehicle´s interior to around 22 degrees Celsius, whereas cooling the air to just 20 degrees will increase fuel consumption by up to 20%.

It is also important to ensure that your vehicle is correctly loaded before a summer trip. Remember not to exceed the maximum permitted load, not only for the vehicle, but also for the tyres. Weight should be evenly distributed with heavier items nearest the ground and as near to the centre of the vehicle as possible, without impeding the passenger´s mobility, but maintaining a centre of gravity wherever possible. Once loaded, remember to adjust the tyre pressure as per the manufacturer’s recommendations, and then increase the pressure once the vehicle is unloaded.

Never carry loose items in the interior of the vehicle as these could become projectiles in the event of heavy braking or a collision and can seriously injure, or worse, the occupants of the car. Finally, if carrying a protruding load, remember not to exceed the permitted dimensions, use a V20 warning sign on the rear, and make sure that lights and number plates remain unobstructed at all times.

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