Extreme heat can wreak havoc on cars.

The higher ambient temperatures during a heat wave can stress batteries and electrical and cooling systems to the breaking point, according to automotive experts.

AAA Mid-Atlantic responded to nearly 14,000 roadside calls between Monday and Wednesday during the latest heat wave, a 17 percent increase over the same two days last year, according to a news release.

“It really takes more out of the batteries and electrical systems than in the cooler months,” said Michael Blue, owner of Brownie's Auto Repair in Walkersville.

His shop sees a bump in business when the weather is either very hot or very cold, he said. Normally, about 20 cars come in each day, but that number increases — with about one additional overheated car per day — during a heat wave.

People taking summer vacations and driving longer distances might be another reason why he gets more cars in his shop this time of year, he said.

“The extreme temperatures are the hardest on vehicles,” Blue said. “When people run their air conditioning system, that is the most strain you can put the engine.”

He recommended making sure the car's cooling system is properly maintained to avoid breakdowns. That would include flushing the antifreeze, checking its pH level, and checking radiator hoses and belts. Drivers should also make sure their cars are tuned up before hot weather. Changing the oil and checking the air filters is a good idea, Blue said.

AAA Mid-Atlantic made similar recommendations, adding that it is important to check a car's battery charge and make sure the tires are properly inflated. Underinflated tires can overheat and blow out.

Heat can drain the charge from a battery, so stores such as Battery Warehouse generally see an increase in business during a heat wave.

Ken Stewart, who has worked at the Eldersburg branch for 25 years, said his store can see about a 20 percent increase in customers when weather strains car batteries.

“The best thing to do to maintain batteries during the summer is to drive every day, and charge it if (the car isn't driven) every day,” he said. The same maintenance tips apply to motorcycles, boats and RVs, he said.

Stewart also recommended keeping the posts on a car battery tightly connected and clean of corrosion. Battery Warehouse performs many of those maintenance services free of charge, he said, whether or not the customer bought the battery there.

“Maintenance is everything. ... Have your battery checked occasionally,” he said.

Follow Kelsi Loos on Twitter: @KelsiFNP.

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