Extreme weather changes affect vehicles. Extreme heat up and cool down causes expansion and contraction, overheating and freezing, and these environmental changes have an impact on vehicular operation. So let’s explore common vehicular failures in summer and how to avoid them.
EXCESSIVE TRANSMISSION HEAT
Your car’s transmission operates under tremendous heat. Many of the internal parts are referred to as “soft parts.” These soft parts inside the transmission are made up of the rubber seals and clutches that are made of a soft friction material. The transmission oil is cooled by a transmission oil cooler located either in, or affixed to, the car’s radiator. Overheat the transmission and ugly things start to happen.
The fluid (which is nothing more than a specific type of oil) reaches a boil, cooking the transmission in its own juices, so to speak. As a result, seals harden and there’s loss of internal hydraulic pressure. The glue on the back of the internal clutches crystallizes, causing the clutches to weaken. Along with the loss of internal cooling capacity, there is a loss of internal lubrication. An increase in friction produces more heat, and the transmission fails in short order.
If you are going to tow a trailer this summer, make sure the transmission oil is adequately cooled while towing. Normally, transmission fluid is cooled within the transmission oil cooler located in one of the radiator tanks. During towing the fluid gets hotter and the standard oil cooler may not release the heat fast enough. This creates a “pressure cooker” effect within the transmission that hardens up seals, grinds up metal parts, and toasts the clutches. So if you’re going to tow a trailer, have an auxiliary transmission oil cooler installed on your vehicle.
EFFECT OF HEAT ON BELTS, HOSES, BRAKES, LUBRICANTS, AND FLUIDS
Belts: Drive belts are made of rubber and consequently dry up, crack, and break. When you add summer heat to the equation, as well as the increased stress from using the air conditioner, the “breakage factor” is multiplied significantly. Have the belts and tensioner checked regularly.
It’s difficult to see here, but this belt is weathered and cracked. The reason for this is that over time, the rubber dries out, leaving it brittle and hard. Friction and expansion and contraction from the engine heating up and cooling down have created the cracks you see here. A belt in this condition is ready to break and leave you stranded on the side of the roadway. Replace a belt that looks like this.
Hoses: The radiator and heater hoses carry the engine coolant. The coolant is forced through the hoses under high pressure at high temperatures. This harsh environment causes deterioration of the hose material, weakening them. Have the hoses checked regularly throughout the summer and replace any soft or brittle hoses.
Despite being subjected to excessive heat and cold, radiator hoses tend to last a long time without needing replacement. Regardless of a typical long life, it’s a good idea to inspect them for condition every time you have an oil change. It’s a simple inspection. Just squeeze the hose with your hand. It should be firm and resilient and rebound firmly. If the hose is soft or conversely brittle, replace it.
Brakes: Brakes are always operating under high temperatures because of their very nature. Brake shoes and pads are designed to create friction in order to stop the motion of the wheels, which are attached to the brakes. Proper brake operation is critical to you and your family’s safety, and brake replacement is something that should not be done at the cheapest bidder’s price. What I mean here is not to spend indiscriminately but to be a good steward when spending money on brake repairs. Get the best quality parts you can at the best price. Ask questions such as, what quality are the parts? What is the warranty? How do these parts measure up to OEM? Remember, just because they look alike doesn’t mean that the brake parts that are cheaper are of like quality. Quality is in the unseen aspects of manufacture such as steel and friction material.
Lubricants: Summer heat causes lubricants and greases to break down and lose their lubricating properties. Lubricants and greases are used to lubricate the mating surfaces of metal parts in suspension, steering, and drivetrain components. Parts such as CV joints, tie rods, ball joints, and control arms can fail without adequate lubrication. So make sure that these parts are lubricated as per manufacturer’s specifications.
Fluids: Finally, your car won’t perform well if the fluids don’t do their jobs. During the summer, high temperatures break down the fluids more quickly. So check them regularly and replace as necessary. Remember, each type of fluid in your car has a vital function, whether it’s lubricating, cooling, or creating hydraulic pressure for braking or power steering. It is vital that you have these fluids inspected (and changed, if needed) according to the manufacturer’s specifications, especially during the summer months.