A Complete Guide to Keeping Your Car Running Smoothly Despite Extreme Heat

Give your car some extra TLC this summer.

Team LemonadeTeam Lemonade
summer car care tips

It’s no secret that the dreaded summer heatwave season is becoming longer and more intense. These record breaking temperatures cause a “greenhouse effect” in your car. That doesn’t just make for an uncomfortably overheated interior, it can cause serious damage to your car’s engine—which could cost roughly $3,000 to $10,000 to replace. 

At Lemonade Car, helping keep you and your ride protected is our priority. In this guide we’ll get into the nitty gritty of how you can keep your car cool during the hot summer months.

Here’s what we’ll discuss:

5 essential car maintenance services to prepare for the summer heat

Preventative car maintenance is a great step towards having a better time behind the wheel, for longer, and it can be one of your greatest weapons against the summer heat. (This holds true for electric car maintenance too).

There are 5 major maintenance services that you should have a certified technician at an auto repair shop take care of as the temperatures rise, and especially before any long drives or summer road trips.

1. Check tire air pressure

An overheated tire can lead to a blowout, especially on hot asphalt. It’s crucial to maintain the manufacturer’s recommended pressure—which you can usually find in the owner’s manual, or on a sticker inside the driver’s side door jamb or glove box door. 

You can have your tire pressure checked by a professional at an auto repair shop as part of your routine maintenance, or you can easily check it yourself at home or using a designated air pump at a local gas station—which is usually free to use—following these simple steps.

2. Change oil and check oil filter

Having a certified professional change your oil and check the oil filter is a critical part of summer maintenance. Fresh, clean oil improves the engine’s efficiency, helping it run cooler during the hot months. The oil filter traps dirt and particles, preventing them from circulating in the oil and damaging the engine.

3. Check hoses and belts

Located in your car’s engine bay, these components transfer fluids and power between different parts such as the water pump, alternator, power steering, and air conditioning system. They can become brittle and crack in the heat, leading to leaks and potential breakdowns. 

Especially leading up to summer, it’s important for your car’s hoses and belts to get checked by a certified technician to ensure they’re functioning properly, and to prevent potential issues.

4. Check coolant and radiator

The coolant prevents your engine from overheating. Regular checks and top-ups by a professional are vital to keep your engine cool.

You can easily check your car’s coolant level by looking at where the level lands between the container’s “MIN” and “MAX” markings when the engine is cold. Also, check that the coolant color is bright and clear, signifying it’s in good condition.

5. Rotate tires

Having this done by a technician regularly—about every 10,000 miles—helps your tires wear evenly, improving their lifespan and performance.

Uneven wear can lead to some tires being under more pressure than others, potentially leading to blowouts, especially on hot asphalt.

We want you to have the smoothest experience possible when you bring your car to the repair shop. Learn more about how you can feel confident when you hand over your keys to the mechanic here.

What are the signs of a car overheating?

Extreme temperatures in the summer make your car work harder, increasing the chances of a mechanical issue. Here are the top signs that might indicate that your car is overheating:

  • The temperature gauge is in the red: This is the most obvious sign that your car is overheating. 
  • The coolant reservoir is low: The coolant reservoir is the clear container in the engine bay that holds the coolant for your car’s cooling system. If it’s running low, it means that the coolant is not circulating properly through the system, which can lead to overheating.
  • There is steam coming from under the hood: If you see steam coming from under the hood, it’s a sign that the coolant is boiling and escaping from the cooling system. This is a serious problem that should be addressed immediately.
  • The engine is making strange noises: If you hear knocking or ticking coming from your engine, it could be a sign of overheating. These noises are caused by the metal parts in the engine expanding and contracting from the heat.
  • The car is losing power: This means the engine is not getting enough cool air, which can cause it to run inefficiently.

If you experience any of these signs, safely pull over to the side of the road, turn off the engine, and if it’s possible, open the hood to help release some of the trapped heat. Allow the engine to cool down before you try starting it back up. 

And never pour cold water on an overheating engine, as it could lead to thermal shock (yes, cars can also go into shock), potential electric damage—and it’s just not an effective way to cool down the hotspots in your car.

Depending on the severity, you may need to take it to a mechanic right away to have it repaired. When you drive with Lemonade Car and include roadside assistance coverage on your policy, we’ll send the cavalry if your car needs a tow to the repair shop after overheating.

What’s the best way to keep my car cool while driving?

Driving a hot car can make for a miserable—and even dangerous—driving experience. Here are practical steps to help protect your ride from the heat while you’re behind the wheel:

  • Higher speeds can put more stress on the car, and make the engine work harder and generate more heat. Avoid driving at high speeds to help prevent overheating your car. (Plus, when you drive with Lemonade Car we reward drivers with safe driving habits—like sticking to the speed limit, and gently braking at stop lights—with savings.)
  • Avoid driving in stop-and-go traffic if possible. When you’re stuck in traffic, the engine doesn’t have a chance to cool down, which can lead to overheating.
  • Drive in the cooler parts of the day if possible—like during the early morning, or late evening.
  • If your car has a manual transmission or allows manual gear selection, driving in a lower gear can keep engine RPM higher, which pumps more coolant and keeps the fan running at a higher speed.
  • Use your air conditioning wisely, as it puts additional strain on your engine and uses more fuel. So if you’re driving at lower speeds, opt for open windows and the AC off (even if everyone can hear what you’re singing along to on the radio). But at highway speeds, using your air conditioner is usually more fuel-efficient. 
  • Extra weight makes your engine work harder and generate more heat. If you can, avoid hauling unnecessary items in your car during a heat wave.

There are also lots of ways you can help keep your car cool while it’s in park. Learn more here.

Before we go… 

It can be fun to soak up the summer sun, but our cars probably don’t share the same sentiment. Lemonade car insurance is committed to helping you navigate these hot summer days with confidence, ensuring your car is cool, comfortable, and protected.

Ready to experience a new kind of car insurance? Click below to start your free quote.

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A few quick words, because we <3 our lawyers: This post is general in nature, and any statement in it doesn’t alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. You’re encouraged to discuss your specific circumstances with your own professional advisors. The purpose of this post is merely to provide you with info and insights you can use to make such discussions more productive! Naturally, all comments by, or references to, third parties represent their own views, and Lemonade assumes no responsibility for them. Coverage may not be available in all states.


Please note: Lemonade articles and other editorial content are meant for educational purposes only, and should not be relied upon instead of professional legal, insurance or financial advice. The content of these educational articles does not alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. While we regularly review previously published content to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date, there may be instances in which legal conditions or policy details have changed since publication. Any hypothetical examples used in Lemonade editorial content are purely expositional. Hypothetical examples do not alter or bind Lemonade to any application of your insurance policy to the particular facts and circumstances of any actual claim.