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Excessive Heat Can Cause Mechanical Difficulties That Increase the Risk of a CrashThe summer heat is a blessing for so many Chicago residents after a cold winter. It’s great to be outdoors at Millennium Park, Lincoln Park, or any of Chicago’s great venues. The tree leaves and flowers blossom. The vegetables and fruits grow. There’s nothing like the warmth of the sun.

But when the temperature pushes above 90, the heat can become unbearable and dangerous, especially for the elderly. Every year, excessive heat causes illnesses like heat stroke, and many times it is fatal. Chicago’s infamous heat wave in 1995 was linked to 739 deaths – and we’re experiencing similar heat waves across the country now.

One danger that most Chicago residents don’t think about is how the heat makes it more difficult for our cars and other vehicles to function, which puts us at risk of an increasing number of car crashes. Jalopnik recently discussed how the extreme Texas heat is affecting car drivers in that state. The author discussed how on one day when the temperature was above 95 degrees for the day, his fiancée’s 2-2009 Chevrolet HRR started to experience all sorts of problems:

The HHR’s air-conditioner failed with a loud bang, followed almost immediately by the car’s temperature gauge pegging itself into the red.

On the dashboard, the check engine light flashed and the car seemed to lose power. But these failures didn’t seem to have an explanation. Fluid levels were fine and I couldn’t find any real damage. Not even a single fuse had popped….

The rear windows stopped working. They would roll down to a partially-open position then stop responding. Austin was already a sweatbox, but not being able to roll down the windows all the way was only going to make it hotter.

Making things worse was when the blower motor for the HVAC system took a smoke break…. The rear windows would eventually come back to life, with the front windows failing in their place. The blower motor would also come back, but at the cost of the 12V power socket.

While the car had previously worked fine on many long trips, the Austin heat took a tool on the Chevrolet. “Random things would fail and fix themselves the entire way home without explanation, but thankfully the engine and transmission kept chugging along,” for a few days, the author wrote. Then the car “decided that it didn’t need greater than three gears. Then a sort of limp mode activated and the car drove like its fuel tank was filled with melatonin.”

The author of the Jalopnik story tried to find the cause. Generic scanners couldn’t find the problem. He checked the gears, the electrical components, the wiring, and the tires. His conclusion was simple – the car couldn’t handle the heat.

If something like that were to happen in the middle of the Eisenhower Expressway, the results could be more than dangerous; they could be deadly.

Hot weather tips and suggestions for your car

EPermitTest offers the following suggestions for driving your car in hot weather.

Personal safety suggestions

Drivers and passengers should avoid dehydration. Dehydration can cause fatigue, dizziness, and headaches – all of which can cause an accident because the drivers lose control of the vehicle.  Drivers should avoid busy roads and places where they can be stuck in traffic. You should have lots of water, preferably in a cooler. Have some snacks since being hungry can make heat stroke worse. Drivers and passengers should keep cool by rolling down the windows or using the air conditions. Passengers should have sunscreen and hats in case the car breaks down and you have to wait outside for help.

Steps to take if the car breaks down or overheats

You should turn on your hazard lights. You should also:

  • Pull off to the side of the road. If some shade outside isn’t available, stay in the car keeping the doors and windows open. Check the car’s temperature.
  • “If your car may be experiencing vapor lock, you can attempt to cool the engine with water.”
  • Don’t open the radiator cap “until the engine has totally cooled, as boiling steam and liquid could be released.”
  • Call 911 if you’re stranded in a remote area.
  • You should also call AAA or some other roadside service if you paid for a private car emergency service.

Checks for your car when the weather is hot

Before you start your journey, you should check the following parts of your car before starting.

  • The battery. Batteries don’t function well in extreme heat or cold. “If you have a maintenance-free battery, check it over thoroughly for cracks and leaks. All batteries should have corrosion cleared from the terminals and connections checked.”
  • The tires. Tires need to have the proper pressure. If they’re underinflated, that causes friction which causes even more heat. If the car’s tires are too hot, tire blowouts are likely. The cars may even ignite. Tires that are over-inflated are dangerous too because the air inside the tires will expand in the heat – which can cause the tire to burst.
  • The cooling system. You or your mechanic should check the radiator to make sure the coolant level is where it should be.
  • Fluid checks. “Motor oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power-steering fluid and windshield wiper fluid may all be at risk of running dry in hot weather. Keep them topped up and double-check each one before any long journey.”
  • Hoses, belts, and connections. A mechanic should check these items before your journey.
  • Vapor lock. “Vapor lock can be a problem in older, carbureted cars. This dangerous engine malfunction can happen in extremely hot weather if the temperature in the engine and fuel lines gets high enough to vaporize gas. When gas is vaporized before it can reach the engine, the car may sputter or lose power altogether and die.”

Remember that roads may warp due to the heat. Secondary roads can warp or buckle if they’re too hot. Slow down and look for changes in road conditions if you drive on these roads when the weather is too hot.

Children and pets in cars

The temperature inside a stationary car can rise 20 degrees in just ten minutes on a hot day, according to EPermitTest. Youngsters, seniors, anyone with an illness, and animals can suffer heat stroke or dehydration if they’re in a car that’s too hot. Even healthy people can suffer in cars that are overheated. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, children can die within minutes in a hot car, because their body temperature can rise “three to five times faster than an adult’s.” Vehicular heatstroke led to the death of 25 children last year, so it is critical that you never leave a child in a car on a hot day. And if you would not leave your child, you shouldn’t leave your pets, either. Leave Fido at home, instead.

With the summer heat waves coming, car drivers need to be extra careful when the weather is warm. At Gainsberg Law P.C., our seasoned Chicago car accident lawyers file lawsuits against drivers who lose control of their car due to fatigue, car malfunctions, or any other reasons. We demand compensation for all your damages including pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost income, and property death. We file wrongful death claims when a loved one dies due to negligence or defective products. To assert your rights, call us at 312.600.9585 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We handle car accident cases on a contingency fee basis.