Driving Cool in a Heatwave

In late June, we experienced the hottest day of the year so far, where temperatures neared 33C in some parts of the UK. There’s another heatwave set to come this summer and with holidays back on the agenda, roads are set to get busier. Whether you’re going to be working in a hot cab, or are going away and driving your own vehicle on a long journey for the first time in a while, these tips will help you prepare.

Before heading out, check your vehicle

Rising temperatures can affect your brakes, tyres, engine oil and coolant. Take a few precautions before heading out:

Check your tyres – Check tyre pressures on your vehicle, especially if you’re planning to go on a long journey over the holidays. Just like colder weather can cause PSI to drop, excessive heat can cause it to increase. Check for wear and tear as heat can wear down the tyre, the tread depth, and air pressure to avoid a blowout.

Brakes – They can fail when temperatures get too hot as components can reach a point where they lose friction due to mass heat absorption. Check them frequently and if you’re carrying a heavy load with a long decent downhill, drop it down a gear to take some stress off the brakes.

Engine Oil and Coolant – Check your coolant level isn’t low as this can lead to overheating. Some oils may also be replaced in hot weather to a higher viscosity to help protect the engine in high temperatures.

Check the air-con works – If your vehicle has air-conditioning, you’re really going to want it in a heatwave! Book in a re-gas now so you’re confident you’ll reap the benefits of a cool car during hot weather.

Whilst you’re out

Stay hydrated – Studies found that driving whilst dehydrated can be as dangerous as drink driving. They found that drivers under the influence of alcohol made the same number of mistakes as those who haven’t had enough water. Long journeys in a hot vehicle can lead to significant losses of water so it’s important to keep hydrated – and don’t put off drinking water to avoid toilet stops!

Wear appropriate clothing – Where permitted, try to wear cool clothes like smart shorts, short sleeved shirts or t-shirts to keep your body cool.

Keep cool when parked up If you have to park up and wait for even just a short amount of time, it’s important to keep on the air-conditioning to regulate the temperature. The Department of Earth and Crime Sciences of San Francisco University carried out a study which took measurements every 10 minutes from an enclosed vehicle. After 10 minutes, temperatures rose 19 degrees Fahrenheit, after 20 minutes 29 degrees Fahrenheit and after one hour, it had risen 43 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wear a hat – Sun beaming through the windows can not only affect your vision, but also burn your head. Wearing a hat will block out the sun’s rays, keeping your head cool and block sunlight that could potentially impair your vision.

Wear sunglasses Avoid glare with some sensible sunglasses. Remember, don’t wear glasses that have very dark tints as this can impair your vision and also land you with hefty fines. Category 4 lenses only transmit between 3% – 8% of light and should not be worn for driving, day or night. See the AA website for advice on driving in sunglasses.

Sunscreen – As mentioned above, you’re at risk of being sunburnt whilst behind the wheel, especially with your windows down so it’s important to wear sunscreen for skin protection.

Mini fridge – If you’re going on a long journey and your cab is your home, invest in a mini fridge. Cool water, cans, or even ice-creams can be enjoyed during breaks. There’s nothing worse than drinking a bottle of warm water!

Expect longer trips – With a heatwave in full swing and schools broken up for their summer holidays, expect and plan for more people on the roads travelling for their holidays, plus additional construction work in dry weather.

Extreme weather – Although we experienced a heatwave in June, the weather turned dramatically bringing thunderstorms, heavy downpours, flash flooding, thunder and lightning, and gale force winds. With weather unpredictability in the UK, please check your weather app for local forecasts to prepare for this too!