RAC Cars News


Hot and Bothered

By raccars Published

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It seems July's record breaking temperatures are posing a number of problems for British motorists, including melting tarmac and heatwave provoked petrol fails...

Motoring organisations have warned that British roads are not made to stand up to heatwave conditions and there is a danger that they could actually melt under the sunny onslaught. Wednesday 1st July was officially declared the hottest day in Britain since records began, with temperatures of up to and, in some conditions, over 35C. Official temperature-taking is performed in the shade, and above the ground. However, tarmac is a dark, heat absorbing material, which in such conditions is likely to reach around 50C. At 50C, some road surfaces can begin to soften and even melt if the temperature is maintained for a longer period of time.

2013's summer heatwave saw temperatures of up to 32C, but already the tarmac struggled to cope and a section of the M25 in Hertfordshire had to be closed, as a ridge had formed in the road's surface. Local authorities can employ gritting machines to distribute salt onto road surfaces during periods of high temperatures, to improve vehicles' skid resistance, and machines were seen in action last week.

It seems motorists' brains are failing as well as the tarmac, with the RAC's breakdown recovery service reporting more than a fourfold increase in drivers calling for help because they had run out of fuel. On the record breaking Wednesday, dry tanks were 465% more common than usual. Incidences of ‘misfuelling’, when drivers accidentally put diesel into a petrol car or vice versa, were also up by 237%, suggesting that the heat is melting brains at the same time as the road surfaces.

The heat also contributed to some mechanical failures, with cooling system problems up by 102% and cylinder head gasket fails up by 82%.

A recent study suggested that less than half of motorists will give their car a service this summer prior to taking it on a long journey, meaning that minor faults or problems, which can flare up under pressure, may not be spotted ahead of time and lead to an inconvenient breakdown.

If you are planning a long car journey or if you use your vehicle regularly in this heat, consider treating it to an extra service. At the very least you should be checking fluid levels - particularly coolant - on a regular basis, along with tyre pressure and tread. You may also want to consider re-gassing your air conditioning system if you have one, to make sure it pumps out really cold air this summer.

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