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Extreme heat leads to rise in flat tires, spent car batteries

Heat causes air in tires to expand by as much as 20 percent, increasing the likelihood of flat tires.
Laura Tiger via Flickr
Heat causes air in tires to expand by as much as 20 percent, increasing the likelihood of flat tires.

The Automobile Club of Southern California is responding to hundreds more calls for dead batteries and blown tires as triple-digit temperatures push cars to their limits, a spokeswoman said Monday.

Older cars may be prone to sizzling car radiators in high heat, but modern cars are more likely to suffer problems on the road with tires and batteries when the air becomes super-heated.

"Thousands and thousands of people are experiencing flat tires, dead batteries throughout the year, but more so in the summer," said Elaine Beno, an AAA spokeswoman.

Hot weather causes air to expand within automobile tires, increasing the internal pressure by as much as 20 percent. Beno advises drivers to check the tire pressure against the tire manufacturers' specifications rather than the recommended guidelines for their car.

She said bald tires can also cause tires to burst as the heat builds up between the road and tire surfaces, degrading the tire. Tires with inadequate tread should be replaced, she advised.

High heat can also wear down batteries faster, so older batteries are more prone to die as the temperature intensifies. If your car has a battery three years old or more, get it checked before hitting the road, Beno recommends.

Other tips for driving when temperatures rise:

• Be more vigilant about checking fluid levels for oil, coolant and refrigerant. These can easily evaporate and become depleted with higher temperatures.

• Keep up maintenance on your coolant system. AAA says older coolants needed flushing and replacement every two years or 24,000 miles, but you can wait at least five years or 50,000 miles with most modern formulations.

• Remember to store a well-stocked emergency kit in your car with water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables, a flashlight, road flares or an emergency beacon, just in case you need to stop on the road.

See more tips for car maintenance in extreme heat on AAA's website.