Family in red SUV © JaySi/

Dear Driving for Dollars,
I’m going to be taking a pretty substantial summer road trip in the Southwest U.S., and I know the basics about how to check out my car to make sure it’s ready. I was wondering, though, is there anything different I need to think about because I’ll be driving in exceptionally hot temperatures?
— Johan

Dear Johan,
There are indeed a couple of things that can affect your car’s performance during a summer road trip.

First, you probably know how important it is to check your tire pressure regularly, ideally monthly, to adjust for the natural loss of air in your tires over time. Of course, you’ll want to do this just before your summer road trip. Keep in mind that, as temperatures increase, the pressure in your tires will increase as well — about 1 pound per square inch, or PSI, for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Tire Rack website.

So, if you are choosing to run your tires at a PSI that is on the higher end of the acceptable range listed in your owner’s manual, your ride is going to get increasingly hard as you drive for long distances in hot temperatures. That may make for a harsher ride, especially on bumpy roads, that may not be as comfortable as when you have a slightly lower tire pressure.

Also, it’s pretty standard practice to check your cooling and air-conditioning systems before a road trip, especially if it’s been more than a year since they’ve been checked in your older car.

The cooling system already is exposed to very high temperatures from your engine, but when driving in hot climates, the system may struggle or even fail. It’s cheap insurance to replace the radiator cap in case the rubber gasket is starting to fail before you depart. You also may want to carry some coolant with you and keep an eye on your engine temperature gauge as you drive for warning signs of problems with the cooling system.

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Prep car for driving in hot weather


Heading out on the road in the heat? Consider these steps to avoid getting hot under the collar because your car is boiling over.

I'm Mark Hamrick with the Personal Finance Minute.

Nothing can take the fun out of a road trip more quickly than a breakdown while driving during the summertime. Here's how to keep your cool, while behind the wheel.

You'll have a better chance of chilling if you check your car's cooling and air-conditioning system, or ask your trusty mechanic or oil change shop to do it for you. For vehicles where the cooling system isn't sealed, putting a container of antifreeze or coolant in the trunk could help save the day if the heat becomes an issue during a trip.

These should be checked at least every year, particularly in older cars. More people are holding on to their cars long these days, so a little TLC is in order, in fact, year-round.

Heat literally puts pressure on tires, too. So check your tire pressure before your trip. While tires naturally lose pressure over time, summer has just the opposite effect. Your tires' pressure can surge about 1 pound per square inch, or PSI, for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Save the expense of a breakdown by doing a quick check before hitting the road.

For more on this and other personal finance issues, visit I'm Mark Hamrick.

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