SHORELINE, Wash. –With temperatures expected to soar high into the 90s in Seattle this week, Puget Sound mechanics are telling drivers to be prepared for breakdowns. A heat wave can be just as dangerous on the side of the road as the dead of winter, they warn.
AAA estimates they’ll be helping at least 7 million drivers nationwide this summer, and most often for lockouts, battery issues and tire problems.
“I have been getting cars towed in here left and right, I can’t keep up right now,” said Tim Lemke, manager of Earl’s Garage in Shoreline. “Alternators, starters, just a bunch of weird electronic stuff that does not do well ,” he said.
Lemke said he’s only expecting to get busier as the week wears on. “The hotter it is, the hotter your tires are going to get,” he said, which can set many drivers up for an all too common blowout.
AAA estimates that 50 percent of drivers has at least one tire that’s low on pressure. Lemke said he thinks that number is higher. “I’d say more, I see it all the time. It just happens all the time.”
From tires to hoses, the rubber he said is usually the first to fail in extreme heat. If connections dry out, warp or crack, a driver can face serious problems.
“I see a lot of hoses that go bad. You pop a hose, you’re overheating, you’re on the side of the road, possibly hurting your engine,” he said.
It’s important to check your fluids, he said and monitor your car’s temperature gauge while driving. If it starts to go up, Washington State Patrol Trooper Brooke Bova said, ‘get over.’
“If you see any smoke or signs that your car is overheating, you want to move over to the right shoulder. You never want to stop in the left lane, that’s not where you want to be,” said Bova.
If you find yourself stranded, Bova said you’re in the danger zone.
Car temperatures can rise dramatically in the summer. In 90 degree temperatures, the inside of a car can jump 19 degrees in 10 minutes. It’s why Bova recommends carrying extra water with you.
“You can get some gallon jugs of water, keep it in your car. You never know when your car’s going to overheat and it’s just nice to have it,” she said. “If your car does overheat or you get a flat tire, you have something to stay hydrated, keep your kids and pets hydrated as well.”
If your car does overheat, Lemke said, park it and back away. “If you see steam, back away,” he said. The cap on your radiator will be under extreme pressure, and could blow off. Lemke said he’s seen it happen.
If you have any concerns, Lemke recommends bringing your car into a certified mechanic, like the ones at Earl’s Garage for a quick inspection.
“We can always check your battery, make sure your connections are good, that your starter and your alternator are doing what they should,” he said. “It’s just a real quick check.”