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Historic heat is unexpectedly breaking cars in life-threatening ways: 'People [aren't] realizing … until it's too late'

Cars in the Lone Star State are experiencing a number of summer woes.

Wiper blades are degrading as a result of heat radiating off windshields

Photo Credit: iStock

Texas is one of the states that has been blitzed by record heat this summer, and that weather is doing a number on cars in the Lone Star State.

Jalopnik rounded up a few problems that mechanics are seeing, including what can be dangerous and costly brake issues.

What's happening?

Common summer automobile troubles include dead batteries and flat tires, according to KXAN, a TV station in Austin, where the heat wave that has gripped the country has sparked a record streak of 100-degree days.

But a couple of other problems are cropping up in the South and on the West Coast, which have been hit hard by climbing temperatures.

Windshield wiper blades are degrading as a result of heat radiating off windshields, Bosch national training manager Doc Watson explained to KXAN.

"With these extreme temperatures that you guys are seeing, it's the plastic breaking down off the wiper blade itself, and people not realizing that that's happened until it's too late," he told the outlet. "The wiper blade breaks, and then you've got this metal arm scratching the glass."

Technicians in Texas, Arizona, and California have also documented "brake fade," which is a mushy feeling when the brake is applied. This can be caused by expanding moisture in brake fluid, as temperatures under a vehicle's hood can reach 230 degrees.

Why is this important?

As our planet continues to overheat because of our overreliance on dirty energy sources like oil, gas, and coal that produce heat-trapping gases when they are burned for energy, people are dealing with its effects.

As the risk of heat-related health problems is on the rise, the impact on cars may be worsening.

City environments can exacerbate heat problems as well. In June, roads in the Houston area buckled as the summer heat ramped up.

What can be done?

Preventative maintenance is important, Watson said.

Car owners should keep an eye on their batteries, tires, and wiper blades. It's also important to monitor the engine overflow tank and add antifreeze if necessary. 

Oil changes every 5,000 to 7,000 miles for new vehicles is important too, but Watson said if your engine idles often because you start your car remotely, you may need a more frequent tuneup.

"These engines will go many miles — 200[000], 300,000 miles — as long as they're [maintained] correctly," he said. "That's big with this extreme heat."

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