We often think of winter weather as the enemy of cars, thanks to the season’s freezing temperatures, snow, ice, and of course, the heavy use of salt and sand in colder regions to keep slippery roads in check. However, summer weather can also take its toll on your car. Sitting in the sun, both your car paint and mechanicals can bake under the glaring sun and heat. Your car’s interior, much like a greenhouse, also roasts. On a 90 degree day, your car’s interior can reach in excess of 140 degrees in just an hour’s time. Luckily, there are ways to prevent sun and summer heat damage to your car.

Proper maintenance and care is your best defense against summer heat. Keep your car in top shape this summer season, here’s how to protect your car from the summer sun and heat.

Protecting your car’s exterior and paint from sun and warm temperatures

Give Your Car a Proper Wash

The first step is to make sure you wash your car’s exterior frequently in a shady spot outside your home. A good exterior wash cleans off pollution, road oils and grime. Never use dish detergent or harsh soap, instead use cleaning products specially made for vehicles and a soft cotton cloth. If you have stubborn road tar or even dead bugs stuck on the exterior, you may require some special removal products. Dry the car thoroughly with a soft cloth or towel to remove minerals and prevent water spots.

Use Wax To Protect Your Car From the Sun

The next step is to wax your car. Waxing is a crucial step in protecting your car, as  it creates a barrier between your car’s paint and the elements, both natural and unnatural. While waxing can be a bit of a chore, it’s a much easier task with an inexpensive buffing machine. It’ll actually make it easier to wash the next time as it helps prevent grease and tar from locking in place.

Take Care of Your Summer Car

If you have a convertible top, it will require some extra maintenance. Care of your top is different for a canvas/cloth top versus a vinyl top, according to AutoGeek.net. There are different products available for both types of tops, so read the product manufacturer’s directions and follow those steps. Fortunately, the basic steps are pretty simple: 

  • Vacuum the top to remove particles and then rinse off the top with water.
  • Apply the fabric or vinyl cleaner and gently scrub using a soft to medium bristle brush. Thoroughly rinse off the material when done.
  • Blot the top with an absorbing towel and let it dry thoroughly. Make sure the car remains out of the sun.
  • Apply vinyl or canvas/cloth protectant per manufacturer’s directions. Let completely dry.
  •  If you have a clear vinyl window in the back, treat the windows with a cleaner and protectant designed specifically for it.

Related: Convertible Buying Guide - The good and bad about owning a convertible car

How to protect the interior of your car from summer heat damage

Your car’s interior also takes a pretty good beating in the summer.

Keep Your Car Clean

Like the exterior, you’ll want to keep the interior clean and protected. Use auto interior cleaning products designed for the type of interior you have: typically leather, vinyl or cloth. Be sure to vacuum the rugs, dashboard and the nooks and crannies.

Condition Your Car's Interior to Protect It From the Sun

Once the interior is dry, use protectant or conditioner on the surfaces (again, ensuring you’ve bought the right product to match the type of interior). This coating will also put a barrier between the interior and damaging heat and sun.

While these may seem like common sense approaches, here are some additional ways to minimize interior heat damage:

  • Whenever possible, garage your car or park in the shade. If you must park in the sun, try to have the rear of the car facing the sun as to minimize UV damage to your dashboard. If you’re parked in a low crime area, consider leaving the windows and sun roof partially open to reduce heat buildup.
  • Consider buying or installing tinted windows.
  • Use a reflectorized panel in your windshield when you park. This not only keeps the temperature down but prevents UV damage.

Engines, tires and other basic summer maintenance

Whether you’re handy or rely on a mechanic, prepping your car for the heat is as important as it is to winterize it. Before the dog days of summer begin, check your cooling system to be sure your belts and hoses are not cracked and in good shape. Check that your cooling level and transmission fluid is where it should be.

Keeping on top of oil changes is especially important during the summer as your engine runs hotter as the mercury climbs. Summer is also a time for more dust and pollen in the air so have your air filter checked regularly and replaced if needed. If it doesn’t seem like your air conditioning is cranking away like it should, that may require an inspection and service too.

Like the rest of your car, make sure your tires and rims are cleaned and washed thoroughly with the right products. Your tires may also require some maintenance. Make sure your tires are at the right pressure. Underinflated tires run hotter as there is more friction with the pavement, according to AutoBytel.com.

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