We all know that sun exposure can harm our skin, but did you know the sun’s rays can also damage your car? When you leave your car in the sun for extended periods of time, the temperature inside can reach as high as 145 degrees Fahrenheit, while the surface of the car’s exterior can reach much higher – up to nearly 200 degrees Fahrenheit!
Your car is not immune to negative effects caused by such heat. Here are 10 simple ways to protect your vehicle from sun damage:
Regularly check your fluid levels: When it’s hot outside, the fluids in your car can get used up more quickly than under normal circumstances. If you happen to be low on coolant, transmission fluid, or oil anyway, then that suboptimal condition coupled with high temperatures increases the chance of damage to your car.
Have your battery tested once or twice each summer: When it’s hot outside, there is often a higher load placed on your car’s battery from running systems like the air conditioning. Periodic testing of your battery and charging system in general prevents you from unpleasant surprises (i.e. the car not starting) on hot days.
Get the air filters checked: There is typically more dust and debris circulating in the air during the warmer months, particularly in arid climates, and this can clog the air filters in your car. If this happens, your gas mileage may suffer, and it could even damage your mass air flow sensor, which helps regulate the air and fuel levels in your engine.
Use reflectorized sun panels on your front and rear dashes: While it may seem like a hassle to whip these fold-out panels out every time you go to the store, it pays off in the long run. These panels greatly reduce the overall temperature inside your car, which you’ll appreciate when you return, and need to use less air conditioning to cool the car. These panels also help to prevent the bleaching effect the sun has on your interior surfaces and upholstery, which can lower the value of your car should you wish to sell it.
Perform tire pressure checks monthly: Extreme heat, trapped air, and rubber can be a volatile combination, and it’s one on which your entire vehicle rests in the summer months. Underinflated tires are more likely to blow out in high temperatures, so prevent accidents (and poor gas mileage) by checking your tire pressure at least once a month. Do this as early in the day as possible when the temperatures are coolest for the most accurate pressure readings.
Park smart: If you have the choice between parking your car in the middle of a blazing parking lot or under a broad tree, opt for the shade. This doesn’t require any fancy props and will keep your car’s interior as cool as possible.
Regularly clean your car’s interior: The pairing of dust and hot sun can wreak havoc on your interior, essentially caking grime onto your dash and other surfaces. With periodic cleaning, however, this becomes a non-issue; just be sure to use cleaners intended for automobile use to avoid stains and unnecessarily drying out materials at risk of cracking.
Wash and hand-dry your car often: Just as dust and debris can cake onto your interior surfaces when exposed to high temperatures, your exterior paint can suffer in the summer sun. Frequently wash your vehicle to keep the surface clean, and dry it thoroughly by hand with a soft cloth, so bits of minerals and grime don’t stick to the residual moisture after a rinse.
Use a protective wax: It’s not enough just to clean your car from time to time; you should wax it at least twice a year to lock in the natural oils in the exterior paint and provide a layer of protection not just from grimy bits that can scratch the surface, but also from the sun’s rays.
Consider paint protection film: If you truly want to be vigilant against potential sun damage to your car, you may want to invest in a paint protection film kit. Some kits only cover the acrylic headlights, but some kits are available that cover your entire vehicle. If you adopt some or all of these simple tips to provide protection from the hot sun, your car will age more gracefully, much like your skin will with the regular application of sunscreen. They don’t take much effort to implement, and these small actions can save a lot of money down the road and help retain your car’s value over time.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Top 10 Ways to Protect Your Car From Sun Damage and was authored by Elan McAfee.