x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Keep your car healthy in high temperatures

With the harsh climate lowering service intervals, car maintenance is all the more important as temperatures climb.

Regular maintenance can avoid breakdowns. Getty Images / Aurora Open
Regular maintenance can avoid breakdowns. Getty Images / Aurora Open

You've seen them: the carcasses of tyres, shredded on the hard shoulder or in the middle of your lane, forcing you to take evasive action. If the temperature displayed on your car's dashboard wasn't a clear enough sign, the fact that the nation's cars are bursting tyres is enough to tell you that we're enduring the hottest part of the year.

We've discussed tyre safety in the past, but there's more to sensible summer driving than simply checking your car's four rubber boots.

The heat might make us head straight for the tint shop. Surely blacked-out windows ensure a more pleasant (and safer) driving environment. But if it's beyond a 30 per cent tint then you're breaking the law. In any case, the effectiveness of this tinted film in reducing ambient cabin temperatures is debatable.

Far more important is to keep your vehicle's service record up to date. Cars in the GCC have shorter service intervals than those in other parts of the world because the environment is much tougher on them than it is in more temperate climes. When our cars are serviced, oils are changed, belts renewed and coolant levels checked - all essential for trouble-free motoring in the desert heat. Engine oil, for instance, gets contaminated more quickly here because of the airborne sand and dust, so it needs to be changed more frequently. The same goes for oil and air filters.

What Europeans call antifreeze, we call coolant. It's mixed in with the water in our cars' radiators and, along with clean oil, helps prevent our engines overheating by having a higher boiling point than water alone and protecting the radiator from rust. Skimp on these things at your peril.

If your car's air conditioning is no longer keeping you chilled, all might not be lost. While it is often expensive to have faulty components replaced, it may need something as simple as a re-gas. The refrigerant contained within any AC equipment can seep out over the years but a short, inexpensive procedure is often all it takes to have ice-cold air pumping into your car once again.

Making a long journey in the height of summer does pose risks and, to make it easier on yourself in case you do actually break down, keep certain items packed inside your car. Bottles of water, sunscreen and loose clothing, along with a mobile phone (plus charger) are essential kit for anything more than the commute to work and back.

But nothing is more important than keeping an eye on those four black things at each corner of your car. Tyres, as we keep reiterating in these pages, cause dozens of crashes every year in the Emirates. Last year in Abu Dhabi alone, 17 people lost their lives because of bursting tyres. Cutting costs by fitting second-hand tyres or new items manufactured by budget brands could end up the worst decision you ever made. There's a reason Pirelli, Michelin, Dunlop, Continental and the like supply tyres that cost so much: they're built to last in extremes of temperature.

The faster we drive, the hotter the air inside our tyres gets, which in turn increases the pressure and makes a burst more likely. So slow down when the heat starts to pile on - if it makes life easier on your tyres it will be worth it.

How many of us actually inspect our own tyres? If the pressures inside them are incorrect, they will probably show signs of uneven wear. When your car is at a standstill, turn the steering on full lock in both directions so you can see the entire tyre to check how they're looking. If they're worn, get them replaced. It's that simple.

If the worst does happen and a tyre explodes, it's not the end of the world. Simply take your foot off the accelerator, gently dab the brakes and grip the steering wheel tightly, easing the car off the road to safety. And, if you've kept up your maintenance then your air conditioning should still work and you can chill out while waiting to be rescued. Provided, that is, you remembered that phone charger.