This summer is one of the hottest in recent memory, and is already creating a flurry of awful news stories about people leaving their dogs and even their children in hot cars to overheat, and even die.

While we hope readers are using common sense about dogs and children, we know that car care in extreme heat is not always obvious, even when you consult that phone book in your glove box known as the owner's manual.

So here are some basic things you should know about caring for your car and avoiding unnecessary catastrophes or repairs.

1. If you battery is three years old, consider replacing it as a matter of preventive maintenance. Batteries get stressed in extreme temperatures, and the older they get, the more stressed they get.

2. Have your cooling service checked by a mechanic or the dealer if it has not been looked at in two years. This system is critical to keeping the engine cool and the air conditioning system working right. Let it break for lack of simple maintenance, and it is not cheap to fix or replace.

3. If you are driving, and especially if you are stuck in traffic, and the temperature light goes on and you are in the danger zone, turn off the air conditioner immediately and open the windows. If the light stays on, turn the temperature selector on the system to the hottest setting. This will redirect some of the heat that is trapped in the cooling system. If the light stays on, pull over and call road-side assistance. Stop driving. If the light goes off, you should be okay to drive the car to a mechanic.

4. Make sure you have fresh coolant in your radiator to start the summer, not just water. Have the radiator checked specifically for corrosion.

5. Look at your tires. If you have worn or cracked tires, you are asking for big trouble in very hot weather. Not only could you blow the tires, but a blow-out at high speeds could cause you to crash, rollover and possibly hit another vehicle.

6. If you drive long stretches of road on a summer road trip or business trip, keep a gallon jug of water somewhere in the car. It could come in handy if you have a radiator leak, or you get stuck waiting for help.

If you want some additional tips and answers to your car repair questions, read our latest Car Coach column.

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