Many roads across the country stretch through treacherous territories surrounded by inhabitable environments. As such, adequately preparing for a long drive through these challenging areas — especially in periods of hot weather — should be your top priority.
You can drive long distances in hot weather by inspecting your vehicle’s condition before the journey, checking weather conditions along your route, and rolling down the windows to cool the cabin. After the drive, it is advisable to assess any damage to your car and make any necessary repairs.
In this article, we’ll dive into eight expert tips to help you plan a successful, long road trip through hot spring or summer weather. Let’s get started.
1. Inspect Your Vehicle
Inspecting your vehicle before a long journey is a preliminary step to a safe, smooth drive in hot weather. There are several things to check before departure, but here are some of the most essential:
- Check the engine: The last thing you want is an engine that stops working in the middle of nowhere. The best way to protect your engine from unexpected malfunction is to get it checked by a professional mechanic. These trained experts look for any signs of leaking engine fluids, worn-out belts, and other important issues that should be attended to beforehand.
- Inspect the battery terminals for corrosion: Any signs of corrosion on the battery terminals should be cleaned off with a commercial battery terminal cleaner (or baking soda, vinegar, or other mild household acids you may already have).
- Assess the tires: Always check your tire pressure before departure. Ensure that the tires are in good condition and properly aligned. The spare tire should also be in tip-top shape, ready to replace a blown-out tire.
- Check the brakes: Have you recently noticed unusual screeching noises every time you come to a stop? These noises are a sign of worn-out brakes. You can also visually inspect the brake pads to confirm this — if they appear too thin, they should be replaced as soon as possible.
2. Check Weather Conditions Beforehand
When preparing for a long drive, you ought to consider your expectations for the journey. Are you looking for the quickest, shortest path to your destination? Or do you hope to catch some scenic views, which would take you on a longer route? No matter what you’re hoping to achieve, it’s always wise to know what to expect on the road ahead, especially when driving through extreme weather conditions.
Google Maps and Apple Maps can help you pick the perfect route for your journey, with real-time updates on weather as well as traffic. Mark any areas along your route that report extreme heat, and make sure to be prepared with some snack bars, flares, extra bottles of water, and a satellite phone (if you have one) should something go wrong.
3. Switch Between Rolling Down the Windows and Using the AC
Both the AC and rolled-down windows increase your fuel consumption, but it is the overall fuel efficiency of the vehicle you should be more concerned with. In a past Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) study, it was revealed that driving a sedan with its windows down dropped the fuel efficiency by 20% while an SUV dropped by 8%.
Rolling down windows when driving will surely pull out the excess heat from the cabin. But sometimes, keeping the windows down can take a toll on your fuel consumption plan. That’s because rolling down the windows throughout a long journey means more air resistance, which means that your engine will consume more fuel to overcome the resistance.
What’s more, keeping your windows down exposes you to 80% more air pollution. Having your windows open also brings in more engine noise and other noises, which could also drown out your radio. The solution lies in rolling down windows when driving at a slow speed since there’s less aerodynamic drag. Once you pick up the pace, roll up the windows and turn on the AC.
4. Park in the Shade
While driving, the temperatures inside the car are moderated by your AC and open windows. A new problem comes in when you park in the blazing sun. For example, when the temperature outside is 85°F (29.4°C), the temperature in the cabin can quickly climb to 104°F (40°C) in just 10 minutes! This temperature continues to climb sharply in the following 20 minutes.
Since you don’t want to come back to unbearable cabin heat, there are a couple of things you can do to keep your car cooler in the hot weather:
- Park in the shade: To avoid immense discomfort and dehydration, start by finding a shade at your stop point. Look for any parking spots with trees near the curb. Some good shade will prevent harsh sun rays from directly striking your vehicle cabin and help keep it cool until you return.
- Leave the windows slightly open: If it’s impossible to find good shade, leave your windows slightly open until only your fingertips can get through. This tiny space will not suffice to keep your car cool, but it can help dissipate some of the heat. However, remember there’s an increased risk of vandalism when you leave the windows even a fraction open.
- Invest in a windshield sunshade: Glass windows allow the sun’s scorching heat to get into your car’s cabin. With a windshield sunshade, you can block out a significant amount of the heat. These shades also protect your car’s interior from the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays.
Another way to keep your car cool while parking in hot weather is to cover up the interior. One area that deserves some decent cover is the front dash panel, which gets struck by direct sunlight most of the time. The result of too much sun exposure is a dry, pale panel that can quickly become an eyesore.
When you get back, turn on the AC and let it run for a moment to let the hot air expel into the atmosphere.
5. Stay Hydrated
When your body runs dangerously low on water, you may start to lose focus, get uncomfortable, or get drowsy or dizzy while driving. Other accompanying symptoms include simple mistakes while driving, such as braking too late. All this can be resolved by hydrating all through the journey.
Here’s how to keep hydrated on a long drive in hot weather:
- Carry sufficient amounts of water: On a normal day, you need to drink 68 oz (two liters) of water. When driving in hot weather, you’ll need to drink 101 oz (three liters).
- Drink water at intervals spread out through the day: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking little amounts of water of not more than 1 ½ quarts (1.41 liters) spread out over an hour instead of taking large amounts of water in one go. Taking too much water too frequently can over-dilute the essential electrolytes in your bloodstream.
- Avoid caffeine-packed energy drinks: Energy drinks contain a vast variety of substances, from sugar to caffeine and other stimulants. Not only do they add calories to your diet, but they are also diuretics that can dehydrate you faster. The high doses of caffeine in some energy drinks may increase the amount of urine made in the body, which leads to water loss.
As such, you should avoid energy drinks (especially those with caffeine) on a hot summer’s drive.
6. Choose the Right Time To Start Your Journey
Always start your journey when you’re fresh and alert, which is usually early in the morning. Leaving at this time ensures that you’ve covered some good distance to avoid being on the road at the hottest times of the day. Starting off your journey when temperatures are cooler also reduces the chances of an overheated engine.
An overheated engine can breed a lot of problems. In the worst-case scenario, running on an overheated engine can cause permanent engine damage. Observe the engine temperature warning light for signs of overheating. If the light comes on, pull over immediately and give the engine some time to cool.
7. Observe Your Posture
Posture matters when driving long distances. A bad posture induces fatigue and, eventually, neck, feet, arm, and spine problems. Additionally, bad posture can bring chronic back pain and may even expose the driver to serious injuries in the event of an accident.
That said, how should you maintain the right posture while driving?
- Sit in an upright posture, with your back pressed firmly against the seat. Ensure that your back rests approximately 100-110 degrees against the seat.
- Use a back cushion for additional support if your back doesn’t line up with the seat.
- Ensure that you can comfortably reach the steering wheel, accelerator, and brake pedals without struggle. Do not lean forward while driving because this puts more strain on your back.
- Relax your head, neck, shoulders, and arms.
- Loosen your grip on the steering wheel and stretch your neck, arms, and legs every once in a while.
- Break into the habit. Initially, it may feel uncomfortable trying to adjust to an upright posture. After a little practice, you will start sitting in a better posture without discomfort.
While adjusting your seat for the perfect posture, maintain clear sight of the road ahead. The seat’s height should allow you to see the road in front of you without leaning forward.
Sometimes, your posture will be affected by the nature of the vehicle. Some car models have small leg and headroom, which forces the driver to cramp themselves up in an uncomfortable position. Fortunately, this can be prevented early when buying your new car (make sure that you have ample room to accommodate your posture). Or, you can slide back the driver’s seat if there are no passengers in the back.
8. Stay Engaged
A long drive can be tiresome, especially in hot weather. Still, it can be made fun. This helps keep the driver and passengers alert throughout the journey. Fun games and conversations with your passengers can stimulate the brain and keep you alert throughout the drive.
Drivers often fall asleep behind the wheel, especially if they’ve not had enough sleep or they’re exhausted from the previous day. Other causes of drowsy driving include sleep disorders and boredom. Hot temperatures further induce fatigue when the body works harder to regulate its internal temperature.
Staying engaged with fun activities can help counter some of these effects. Some road trip games you can play with passengers include:
- “The Singing Game”
- “While You Were Sleeping”
- “The Name Game”
- “21 Questions”
There are several other games you can play with passengers, depending on their age, your relationship with them, and their preferences. Unfortunately, most of these games would not work for a solo traveler.
Here are some additional ways to stay engaged while driving alone over a long distance:
- Turn on the radio and switch to high-energy music.
- Chew some gum.
- Turn on the AC and keep a stream of cool air flowing into the vehicle. A warm cabin can induce drowsiness, even on a hot day. Keeping the AC running will help disrupt the comfortable environment created by the warm air held inside the cabin of your vehicle.
- Avoid alcohol and other substances that can cause drowsiness while driving.
At the end of the drive, you should also make sure that you get enough sleep. If you still have trouble staying engaged, it could be a sign of extreme fatigue, which needs to be addressed as soon as possible. If this is the case, pull over and get some rest until you’re fit to drive again.
Preparing for a long drive in hot summer weather only takes a few hours of planning. Remember to pack emergency supplies, inspect your vehicle, and alert your loved ones of your travel plans beforehand. This way, you can enjoy your drive worry-free, with someone watching out for you in case of an emergency.
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