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  1. Default Driving in the Heat

    Hello! I'm planning a road trip from Chicago to San Diego and I intend to leave in August. The route is yet to be determined, but I'm wondering what extra precautions I should be concerned about with driving in the August worried should i be about my car overheating? what precautions can i take before i leave? and if my car does overheat, what's the best way to handle it? Should I alter my route to avoid certain areas? Any advice would be great.

  2. #2
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Desert Run

    Greetings Niki!

    Desert travel will always be sort of a new experience, especially to those from the northern attitudes. I first recommend checking out this thread that I started last year, and contains a lot of helpful desert driving tips.

    Some other things to mention, and in direct answer to your questions:
    how worried should i be about my car overheating?
    Most newer, modern cars, and those that are well maintained, should not overheat. The main thing to remember is to make sure you have your radiator checked prior to leaving. Let the mechanic know you'll be driving in the desert southwest, and they will adjust their search accordingly. The best thing to remember though is if you have to make any steep climbs, turn off the Air Conditioning. Even on newer cars, the extra strain of climbing and pumping A/C can cause the car to overheat.

    Keep an eye on your temp gauge or temp warning light. If they approach hot, do the following:
    *Turn off the A/C and switch to heater at full blast.
    *Roll down all windows to keep from cooking yourself.
    *Get the vehicle off the road and shut off immediately.
    *If there is no sign of steam from the engine compartment, pop the hood and allow it to sit. This may take the better part of an hour or two.
    *Check under the car for any leaking fluid.

    Once the car has cooled, check the Coolant Overflow jug. I personally recommend carrying two gallons (minimum) of ready mix coolant (also known as PreMix or 50/50). If the coolant jug is empty, add some additional coolant and try to start the vehicle and get to the next town, eye the temp gauge the entire time. If you were doing some long up hill climbing and just had an overheating experience, it may not be your vehicle but the climb itself.

    If you can make it to the next town, it may be best to allow the vehicle to sit overnight or take it into a local garage for a radiator check.

    But, if you take the proper precautions, you'll have less of a chance of overheating. Another major precaution is to allow the vehicle to rest as often as you do. When you stop, turn the vehicle off and raise the hood. This will allow more heat to radiate from the engine. Don't run the A/C when sitting for too long, instead move to a cool building or just sweat it a little.

    I hope these tips help you out. They have saved me quite a few times down here in Arizona! And by the way, there really aren't any routes to avoid... just take some precautions and all should be well.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Water

    The thread that Brad linked to about desert driving tips contains information that can be useful under any conditions. It is quite possible to become dehydrated in any weather, so carrying enough potable water is one of the most important things you can do.

  4. Default Going to add one more..

    I'm going to add a silly one, but based on personal experience.

    Before you head out for high temp driving, get a brush and (Carefully!) clean off the front of your radiator. Get the gunk and bugs off the front of it..


    Well, one family road trip from SoCal into the Central Valley and back we noticed the temp on the family car driven by my dad to really start climbing as we went up over the Grapevine pass into LA. We couldn't figure out what was doing this, since we had checked for fluid levels, leaks and etc and the radiator had never given us any trouble before.

    Well, when we inspected the car when we got home, we took off what was like a 1/4 " layer of dog hair off the front of the radiator. Turns out our big dog liked to sleep under the front of the car, and his loose fur had been building up on the front of the radiator every time we had pulled the car out and the fan pushed more fur onto the front of the engine. It was sort of like putting a sweater on the radiator to keep it from getting cool, no matter how much the fan blew...

    I used a soft brush to clean off all the dog fur and bugs and whatnot, and we never had another problem with overheating again with that car ....

    So.. silly thing, but ....

  5. Default

    thanks, all! good advice!

  6. #6


    One thing I do, alongside cleaning the radiator, is to put a peice of Window screen behind the grill of the car. This keeps bugs and debris away from the radiator and is fairly easy to clean out at overnight stops! My wife and I took a trip to Bakersfield last year. we left home (Seattle area) early morning..temps about 55-60 degrees, Day two I was driving in 102 degree heat. Car held up fine! Also, like mentioned before, when going over Passes...A/C is bad!!! turn it off before you start to climb. You can turn it back on when you go down the pass, just not up it.

  7. #7


    Quote Originally Posted by niki0418 View Post
    how worried should i be about my car overheating? what precautions can i take before i leave? and if my car does overheat, what's the best way to handle it? Should I alter my route to avoid certain areas? Any advice would be great.
    Unless you like to keep it redlined while blasting the A/C at full blast, you shouldn't have much of a problem with overheating. The only thing I do to keep my 99 Wrangler from overheating in the AZ desert (lucky me I don't have to worry about A/C being that I do not have any) is stopping occasionally after an especially steep climb or a dramatically hot stretch (110*+) is pulling over at a gas station and grabbing a drink, using the bathroom, and maybe cleaning off my windshield etc. just to give the engine a little break.

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