When the mercury rises, who doesn’t dream of driving a convertible along a coastal road, with the sea breeze through your hair providing a gentle respite from the sun overhead. In reality you’re more likely to be stuck on the M3, with body parts stuck to the car seats, and the tempers in the car rapidly getting hotter than the temperature outside.
If you absolutely have to drive on a hot day, and our advice is don’t if you can help it, here are 10 tips to help you keep your cool.
1. Slip slop slap
Although car windscreens have a plastic layer bonded between two layers of glass which will block all the UVB and 80% of the UVA rays from the sun, the rear side windows don’t offer as much protection, and it’s still possible to get a suntan through the glass.
So even if you’re going for a short drive, protect your skin from sun burn and more long-term problems like wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer by putting on plenty of sun cream before you set off.
2. Stay alert
Hot weather can make us feel tired which can be dangerous when driving. Keep a bottle of water in the car to keep yourself hydrated and try to avoid being out on the road between the hours of 11 and 3 when the sun is at its most intense. Take regular breaks and if you feel yourself falling asleep at the wheel find somewhere safe to pull over as soon as possible.
Going for a romantic drive in the sun may not be as hot as you might imagine
3. Bless you!
Hay fever can compound the misery of very hot days so if you’re a sufferer keep your windows and vents shut when driving to minimise pollen getting inside the car. Hay fever symptoms such as sneezing and watery, itchy eyes can impair your ability to drive safely and some medications can cause drowsiness so it’s important you check the information leaflet before you drive.
4. Foot control
Although it’s not illegal to drive in flip-flops or even with bare feet, you could be breaking the law if you are unable to operate the controls safely and put yourself, passengers, and other drivers at risk.
Flip-flops and other loose-fitting sandals may prevent your feet from getting sweaty when it’s getting hot out there, but they can also slip off easily, or get wedged under the pedals.
The Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), that carries out driving tests and approves people to be driving instructors and MOT testers, also advises against driving barefoot as you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.
5. Be shady
Using the sun visor and wearing sunglasses will reduce glare from the sun when you’re driving. However, sunglasses, particularly cheaper models, can often be too dark for driving as it’s essential that enough light to allow you to see clearly can get to your eyes. Larger frames may in some cases obscure your peripheral vision, so you need to choose your shades carefully.
Be careful if you wear variable tint lenses that change their density when exposed to different kinds of light, as the windscreen blocks UV which can limit the reaction of the lenses if they only react to UV rays. Look for variable tint lenses that change according to light levels instead.
If you normally need to wear glasses when driving, then you’ll need to wear prescription sunglasses. And keep a spare pair in the car so you don’t get caught out on those days when UK weather seems to go through 3 climates in 1 day.
Although dogs love the feel of the wind on their face, this can be dangerous and not something we recommend
6. High temperature maintenance
High temperatures can exacerbate problems with your car so keeping it well maintained during the summer months is just as important as during the winter. Excessive heat can cause battery fluid to evaporate, your cooling system will be working overtime, and the heat can put extra stress on your tyres.
Make sure you have your car serviced regularly and if you’re not a DIY sort of person then a car mechanic will be able to fix any issues and check things like fluid levels for you.
When driving, keep an eye on the temperature gauge that monitors whether your engine is overheating. If the light comes on or the thermometer enters the red zone safely pull over. Don’t try to cool the engine down quickly with cold water and don’t remove the radiator cap which can cause hot steam to spray out.
7. Know your air-con
Before switching on the air-con open the doors and windows for a few minutes to allow some cooler air to enter the car to stop the system recirculating hot air. If you don’t have automatic air-con, then start it on its lowest speed and gradually increase the speed to avoid shocking the system.
If the air-con starts blowing cold air in your face, then switch on the air circulation so that it no longer draws air from the outside but recirculates the interior air. As it starts getting warmer again, it can be tempting to open your windows, but all this means is that you’re wasting fuel by pumping cooled air outside. Simply switch off the air circulation and the air-con will begin using air from the outside again.
8. Eyes on the road
In very hot weather, the surface of the road can become soft which can affect driving conditions, and heavy rain can often precede hot weather so patches of the road may still be wet and slippery.
Look out for more pedestrians and cyclists, and, over the summer holidays in particular, children. Warm weather and congestion can affect everyone’s mood so you might encounter more bad driving than usual. Be alert and ready to take evasive action if necessary.
9. Just say no
It goes without saying that you should never drive a car when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but in the summer we can all get a little more relaxed about things.
If you’re going to a beer garden, barbecue, or beach, before heading out plan how you’re going to get home. And if you’re unable to say no to a glass of Pimm’s or two, leave your car at home and arrange for a friend to give you a lift or get a cab or public transport.
10. Don't forget your dog
Never leave your dog alone in your car on a warm day. Dogs don’t sweat in the same way we do so heat up and cool down very differently from humans. Heatstroke will not only be unbearable but also can result in serious complications and could be fatal.
Even parked in the shade and with the windows down a car can quickly heat up to dangerous levels – when it’s 22 degrees outside, the interior of a car can reach 47 degrees in less than an hour and up to 60 degrees over a longer period
If you need to take your dog with you on a car trip on a hot day, make sure it’s placed in a cool spot inside the car, plan for plenty of water breaks, and avoid congested roads at busy times of the day.