It is, as they say, a scorcher.
As we reported here a few weeks back, our state has been setting records for high temperatures in June -- even though July is traditionally South Carolina's hottest month.
When the mercury was soaring last summer, AAA Carolinas reported increases in battery installations, repairs to vehicles' air conditioning systems and increased calls for road service.
The venerable roadside assistance folks are back again this year with more warnings for summer drivers: the possibility of heat-related vehicle failure, the importance of keeping fluids checked and the dangers of leaving pets or children inside unattended vehicles.
"In the summer, heat is your vehicle's worst enemy, and the most vulnerable component is the battery," warns Dusty Holcomb, president of AAA Car Care Centers. "Heat dries up fluids and reduces the battery's ability to function properly."
And the dangers to humans (and pets) are obvious, too: heat can increase temperatures inside vehicles when windows are rolled up and the AC's off.
Here's a list of seven AAA-approved tips that just might save your car -- or someone you love -- this summer:
- Never leave anyone - human or otherwise - locked in your car. If it's 83 degrees and sunny, the inside of your car can reach 109 degrees in just 15 minutes. (Heat exhaustion begins to occur at 90 degrees).
- Never leave a car unlocked around kids, as more than 25 percent of heat-related car deaths occur when children crawl inside an unlocked car and then can't get out.
- Check windshield wipers for cracked or hardened rubber. Summer thunderstorms can be fierce, and poor windshield wipers affect visibility.
- While tires are cold, check tire pressure to ensure proper inflation. Also look for bubbles, blisters and any other weak spots. As heat builds up, tires expand, and weak spots can lead to a blowout or flat.
- Check your fluid levels - transmission, battery, brake, power steering, and especially coolant and antifreeze. The wrong levels or mixture could cause the engine to overheat.
- Get everything checked regularly - oil, air and oil filters, battery, pressure system. This will show leaks in radiator hoses or head gaskets, and heat can often run down a battery, so make sure replace old ones.
- Look for spidery cracks or wear and tear on your engine hoses and belts, including belt tension. If a hose is spongy, it needs replacing.
Above all, defer to common sense. If you notice your temperature gauge rising, especially in stalled traffic, turn the air conditioning off, open the windows and turn on the heat. You'll "be uncomfortable" warns AAA, but this will force heat away from the engine and buy some time while your GPS frantically calls up the closest service station.
And always keep a summer emergency kit stocked with bottled water, reflective red emergency plastic triangles, a cell phone, flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit, a hat or umbrella and nonperishable snacks.
Got other tips for summer driving safety? Let us know in the comments.