Summer Desert Driving Precautions
Taking a cruise out west this summer before the kids go back to school? Don’t underestimate what the heat can do to your body and your vehicle. Just as your body needs water and your skin needs sunscreen, your vehicle also needs extra care under extreme desert conditions. To make sure you are not stranded on the side of the road with the tumbleweeds, make sure all your vehicle’s fluids are fresh and topped off, double check the air pressure of your tires, and prepare for the worst, just in case.
Check Your Fluids
Although it is necessary to keep your car’s oil clean and its fluids topped off no matter what time of year it is, during hot weather it is extremely important to do so. Your vehicle’s engine regularly runs anywhere between 180 and220 degrees depending on how it is designed, but when temperatures are hot outside of the vehicle, your car’s engine is under increased stress because it has to work harder to cool down. Clean oil and sufficient coolant in your car’s radiator can go a long way to help reduce some of this stress. Those aren’t the only two fluids you should worry about, however, make sure you have enough power-steering fluid, transmission fluid, and gas as well. It’ll be a long, hot walk to the nearest lube station if you run out.
Check Your Tire Pressure
Without shade to protect it from the relentless sun, desert pavement gets extremely hot in the summertime. Road temperatures can easily exceed 200 degrees and you wouldn’t believe what temperatures like that can do to your car’s tires. Plus, as your tires heat up, the air inside them becomes more volatile and expands. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that you tires are not over inflated to protect yourself, your passengers, and the vehicles around you from a blowout. Blowouts in the desert are extremely common and are often the cause of deadly accidents. So before you take off on that western adventure, double check that the air pressure inside all of your tires, including the spare, is at the level recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.
To prevent blowouts, some automotive experts recommend inflating your tires with nitrogen. Although nitrogen will cost you more money than the air from your corner store, it does not expand or contrast as drastically as regular air, which makes it safer during extreme temperatures. Because there is some contention about the use of nitrogen in tires and because many older tires are not designed to be inflated with the gas, you may want to look into this further before you decide if nitrogen is right for you.
Don’t Forget Survival Necessities
Finally, whether you believe your vehicle is prone to a breakdown or not, always be prepared for the worst. Pack an emergency bag to take with you that contains plenty (and I mean plenty) of water, a few bottles of engine coolant, a fix-a-flat air can, road side flares or cones, enough non-perishable food items for everyone you are bringing along, sunscreen, a tool kit, jumper cables, and a properly stocked first-aid kit. Additionally, make sure your phone is fully charged so you can get a phone call out in case of an emergency. Never leave home without a spare tire and consider bringing along a portable tire inflator so you can optimize your tire pressure every time you hit the road.
End of summer trips are a great way to spend time as a family before the kids go back to school, but be sure you and your vehicle are properly prepared to venture through the desert to get to your destination. The scenery is great, but the weather can be downright dangerous.
This guest post was contributed by Brittany Larson, a Mojave Desert-dweller and a blogger for Fremont Toyota .