It can be fun getting out on the road on a beautiful sunny day. But when the sunshine becomes a heatwave it can be a very different story.
Driving in hot weather can be very unpleasant and sometimes downright dangerous, but quite often it is unavoidable. Temperatures in the UK hit 35°C in 2018, so be prepared. Here are some of the things you need to consider before heading off into the bright blue yonder this summer.
1. Preparation and Navigation – Plan your journey
If possible, start journeys early in the morning or later in the evening, when it is cooler. Plan your route carefully and check traffic reports online to make sure you spend as short a time as possible in the car.
2. Pick your shoes – Is it safe to drive in Flip-Flops?
It might be very tempting to drive in your most comfortable shoes at this time of year. In summer, many of us choose flip flops as our go-to footwear. Flip-flops are brilliant for the park or the beach but are not the greatest idea for driving. If you have to suddenly hit the brakes, the loose-fitting design of these summer favourites can easily impact your ability to drive (or more importantly stop) safely and potentially lead to an accident and/or a fine.
3. Stay Shady – and avoid the sunny glare
According to Rule 237 of the Highway Code, drivers need to slow down or pull over if they are “dazzled by bright sunlight”.
You might also want to keep some shades or a sun visor handy for more comfortable driving. Invest in a decent pair of sunglasses to maximise your ability to see clearly at all times. There’s a huge range to pick from at all price points and many of the designer brands make shades with polarised lens for all the fashionistas among you. Polarised lenses reduce glare. They can be a little more expensive but are worth the extra cash for the additional safety they provide.
4. Better safe than sorry! Do a quick car maintenance check
Make sure that your screenwash, coolant and oil levels are correct. Just as humans sometimes struggle in extreme heat, it can be the same for your poor car – remember, it’s doing all of the work! It is also good to check that your tyres are suitable for driving in the hot weather. Some tyres might wear faster or lose grip if they’re not designed for use at high temperatures. It’s definitely worth checking if you’re taking your car to the continent this summer where temperatures often far exceed the maximums we see in the UK!
5. How to keep your car cool when parked in the sun?
If you can, it is better to park your car in the shade, but it’s not always possible. Getting into a car that has been parked in the glaring sun, even for a short time, is not much fun. The trapped hot air makes your car even hotter inside than it is outside. Metal trims feel hotter still and leather seats and steering wheels, well, frankly they just make you hot and sweaty don’t they? All very unpleasant.
Car sunshades can make a difference and reduce car temperature by up to 50%, so it may be worth investing in one. The most common are the reflective ones for the windscreen, as this is usually the largest window in the car. For obvious reasons they’re hugely popular in Spain and Greece. You pop them on top of the dashboard up against the inside of the windscreen. They might spoil the aesthetic of your shiny pride and joy a little but have to be worth considering for that level of heat reduction on hot days. You can also get ones that can be used whilst driving, on the passenger windows, to protect your children from UV rays.
The quickest way to get rid of the hot air is to open all the windows before getting in. Convertibles are made for these kinds of sunny days, but be careful! Take valuables with you when you leave the car or lock them in the boot if the roof is left down.
6. Best Practice for using your Air conditioning in the Heat
If you have aircon in your car, you can use it to lower the temperature. Many of us take aircon for granted but make sure it works when you need it with regular maintenance. Having your aircon re-gassed, especially on older cars can have a huge impact on its performance and how quickly it cools the interior of your car. You should also read our blog on changing your car air filter.
On older cars, running the air-conditioning may increase fuel consumption or affect its performance on the road. Since the aircon compressor generally takes its energy from the engine, it might leave you a little less for acceleration. But then, it’s a lovely sunny day, you’ve planned your route well and you’re not in a hurry. Just remember that when you get held up behind that caravan, give yourself a bit of extra time and space for overtaking, especially if you are driving a car with a smaller or less powerful engine.
If you’re lucky enough to have a car with climate control then you can also set the temperature to a comfortable level and it will maintain that for you leaving you to concentrate on the road ahead. If you don’t have aircon, open your windows and vents while driving for the convection cooling.
7. Keep your Cool – Avoid road rage
As summer temperatures rise, so can tempers. Heat can impact drivers and getting into a car without aircon might just push you over the edge. It is recommended to have a good sleep before travelling and avoid busy routes to prevent stress. You can read more tips on how to keep calm while travelling here.
8. Whatever you do, take plenty of water with you
It is important to look after the driver and passengers as well as the car. Make sure that you have enough water to stay hydrated. If it is boiling outside, you can leave a few bottles in the fridge, so you have cold water ready for use. For longer journeys, empty a little water from some of your bottles to allow room for expansion and then freeze them overnight so that you will have cold water well into your trip. Even mild dehydration can cause tiredness so make sure you always have water at hand.
9. Remember! Don’t leave young children or pets in the car
When you leave the car, don’t forget to take your kids and pets with you as the heat can be dangerous to them. The temperature in the car can go as high as 47°C when it is only 22°C outside which can be deadly. You may also face prosecution if passengers (depending on you) suffer from heat exposure while you’re away.