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Heat Is Here: Check Over Car Before Your Summer Road Trip


Summer’s here! And with hotter temperatures comes time for vehicle owners to “summer-ize” or prep their car or truck to win the battle against summer heat before leaving for vacations or trips to the beach or theme parks.  Summer vehicle inspections are especially important for drivers who have delayed vehicle maintenance.  The Automobile Club of Southern California has prepared a checklist for vehicle owners to follow or discuss with a certified automotive technician before a hot weather road trip.

Approximately four million drivers nationwide call AAA annually for help with a flat tire.  More than 362,000 motorists were expected to be rescued during last week’s July 4 holiday period for dead batteries, flat tires and being locked out of their cars. Of those 362,000, nearly 77,000 were from Southern California.  “Many problems with batteries, tires, and hoses can be avoided by getting the vehicle checked before getting behind the wheel,” according to the Auto Club’s AAA Approved Auto Repair Manager Dave Skaien.

“A summer road trip in Southern California usually goes hand-in-hand with hot temperatures," added Skaien. “A road trip during the summer months often involves driving in 90- to-100 degree heat. In those temperatures, breakdowns happen to cars not maintained properly and haven’t been serviced for hot weather,” said Skaien.

Many motorists know that hot weather contributes to radiators overheating, but extreme heat also can sap weak batteries of remaining energy, cripple air conditioning systems, create or enlarge hose leaks and snap worn belts.

AAA Approved Auto Repair Facilities

To assist motorists in finding reliable mechanics who provide high quality maintenance and repairs and who guarantee their work, the Auto Club has certified nearly 500 auto repair shops in Southern California as AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities. These facilities receive regular inspections, must maintain rigorous standards for mechanical and customer service must use quality replacement parts and employ properly-trained technicians. To find the nearest Auto Club-Approved Auto Repair facility, visit, or call 1-800-713-0003.  There are approximately 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada. 

The Auto Club is offering a free AAA Summer Vehicle Check Up at participating AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities through Aug. 31. These participating facilities are also offering a free tire rotation with a paid service.  Some restrictions apply. To learn more, call 844-430-0766 or visit

Maintenance Checklist

Before a summer road trip, car owners should review the Auto Club’s maintenance checklist, or have their vehicle checked by a trustworthy or certified automotive mechanic:

  • Check tires for uneven wear or excessive tread wear and make sure all tires, including the spare, are properly inflated. Inflate tires to recommended pressure. Under-inflated tires not only are a safety hazard but can cut gas mileage by as much as two percent per pound of pressure below the recommended level.
  • Inspect antifreeze/coolant level and condition. Make sure water and coolant is the mixture specified in the vehicle owner's manual. Make sure the coolant has been flushed and changed as recommended by the vehicle maintenance schedule.
  • Inspect and replace worn or cracked belts, as well as hoses that are worn, cracked, blistered, brittle, or too soft. Even belts and hoses that look fine should be examined carefully. Belts and hoses that are more than 10 years or 100,000 miles old should be looked at as candidates to be replaced as a safety precaution due to age and mileage. 
  • Check engine oil level and condition. When driving under hot weather conditions, or when towing a heavy trailer, consider switching to heavier motor oil. Check the "severe driving conditions" section of the owner’s manual for oil recommendations.
  • Since high temperatures can compromise batteries, test and replace old or weak batteries. Be sure to check the water level of batteries with removable cell caps. If the battery is more than three years old, have it tested during each maintenance service and if it's more than five years old, consider replacing it due to age.  The Auto Club has a mobile battery service in select areas may be able to test your battery and replace it with a new battery, if needed.
  • Check transmission fluid for correct level, smell and appearance, since heat can break down the fluid over time. This is especially important for vehicles used for towing. Check the owners' manual for the right transmission fluid, and service and replacement interval.
  • Inspect brake fluid for proper level and condition. Low brake fluid could indicate excessive brake wear or fluid leak. Dirty coffee-colored brake fluid indicates brake fluid contamination or moisture. A brake inspection and fluid flushing is probably needed.
  • Inspect power steering fluid for proper level and condition. Low power steering fluid can cause damage to the power steering system and dirty and or burnt power steering fluid can lead to premature power steering failure.
  • Don't leave home without fresh windshield wiper blades and windshield washer fluid. Fresh blades and fluid will help to remove road dirt and insects from the windshield. Use pre-mixed fluid, not water from a garden hose.  Premixed fluid contains ingredients that won't harm exterior vehicle paint.
CST 1016202-80 Copyright © Automobile Club of Southern California. All Rights Reserved.
The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.