8 ways extreme heat damages your car

Plus what to do about it

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

  • 4+ years in the Insurance Industry

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

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For much of the country this summer has meant extreme heat. Many states and cities have broken records, and it isn’t just limited to our country. The summer of 2023 has been the hottest in modern records averaged over the entire world[1].

Places in the American Southwest that routinely experience extreme heat have seen recording-breaking stretches of 100+ degree days. Areas of the Midwest that sometimes have milder temperatures are affected by an enormous heat dome across much of the country[2]. Even the East Coast is seeing a blistering late-season heat wave.

In addition to affecting your energy bills and your will to ever leave your house again, extreme heat can do a number on your car. Here are a few things to look out for as September continues to keep things cooking.

8 ways heat affects your car

Extreme heat can have several adverse effects on your car, potentially leading to various mechanical and cosmetic issues. Here are some of the common problems associated with extreme heat:

  1. Battery damage: High temperatures can cause the electrolyte in your car's battery to evaporate more quickly, leading to reduced battery life and performance. It may also increase the risk of battery corrosion and even failure. Car batteries typically last between three to five years, but in southern regions the average can be closer to the lower end[3].
  2. Tire damage: Prolonged exposure to extreme heat can lead to tire degradation, including dry rot, which weakens the rubber and reduces tire life. Tire pressures increases with higher temperatures. Overinflated tires can be more susceptible to blowouts in hot weather[4]
  3. Fluid evaporation: Extreme heat can cause various fluids in your car, such as engine oil, transmission fluid and coolant, to evaporate more rapidly. This can result in decreased lubrication and cooling efficiency, potentially leading to engine damage or overheating.
  4. Overheating: Higher temperatures can cause your engine to run hotter than usual, increasing the risk of overheating. This can lead to engine damage, warped cylinder heads and blown gaskets if not addressed promptly.
  5. A/C system strain: Your car's air conditioning system has to work harder in extreme heat to maintain a comfortable cabin temperature. This extra strain can lead to increased wear and tear on the A/C components and reduce its overall lifespan.
  6. Paint and interior damage: Prolonged exposure to intense sunlight and high temperatures can cause your car's paint to fade, peel, or crack. The interior can also suffer, with dashboard components, upholstery and trim materials deteriorating over time[5].
  7. Electrical system issues: Extreme heat can affect the performance and longevity of electrical components in your car, including sensors, wiring and electronic systems. Heat causes expansion which in turn creates separation that leads to compromised operation. This may result in various electrical problems, such as malfunctioning sensors or even electrical fires in extreme cases[6].
  8. Fuel system problems: High temperatures can cause fuel to evaporate more quickly, potentially leading to vapor lock, reduced fuel economy and engine performance issues[7].

How to avoid the effects of extreme temperatures

To mitigate the effects of extreme heat on your car, consider taking the following precautions:

  1. Park in the shade or use a car cover to protect your vehicle from direct sunlight.
  2. If you live in a place that experiences extreme temperatures for prolonged periods of time, it’s worth having your battery load tested annually after it hits two years of age. 
  3. Maintain proper tire pressure and inspect your tires regularly for signs of damage or wear.
  4. Ensure your cooling system (radiator, coolant, and fans) is in good working condition.
  5. Keep your car well-maintained with regular servicing, including fluid checks and changes.
  6. Use sunshades or window tints to protect your interior from heat and UV damage.
  7. Be mindful of your A/C usage and have it serviced if it's not cooling efficiently.

Extreme heat can have several adverse effects on your car, potentially leading to various mechanical and cosmetic issues. Here are some of the common problems associated with extreme heat:

Will car insurance cover the effects of extreme heat?

Unfortunately, no. Even the most comprehensive coverage is designed to protect against things outside of your control like animals, floods, hail and theft. However, heat, even at its most extreme, is not a covered peril. Damages from heat are considered regular wear and tear.