AAA warns against ‘car meltdowns’ due to heat

Sizzling temperatures have heated up the number of motorists calling for help, AAA East Central and local tow companies report.

“Our call volume has been up about 15 to 20 percent the last couple of days with the heat,” Bevi Powell, AAA East Central spokeswoman, said.

The majority of calls to AAA have involved vehicles refusing to start and drivers locked out of their vehicles while the air conditioning and engine are running, Powell said.

That’s also what a couple of local towing companies are seeing.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” Jim Della, president and CEO of Reliable Towing and Auto Center Inc., said. “This heat is really hard on the vehicles.”

Reliable has seen everything from broken fuel and water pumps to motorists locked out of their vehicles, Della said.

On Thursday, the company had fielded about 30 calls for service by mid-afternoon, Della said.

“It’s been pretty steady all week,” he added.

Drivers typically equate problems starting their vehicles with colder temperatures, Powell said.

“But actually, hot temperatures are just as devastating” to a vehicle’s battery and electrical systems, she added.

Motorists should routinely have their vehicle’s battery checked by a technician, said Mike Stultz, owner of Stultz’s Towing Service.

Vehicle batteries are particularly susceptible to heat and age and can short out, leaving motorists stranded, Stultz said.

Stultz said he has seen an increase in calls throughout the week, including calls from motorists who lock their keys inside their vehicle as the air conditioning runs.

Drivers should have their vehicle’s battery tested by a qualified technician if it is more than 2 years old, Powell said. Older batteries might not have adequate starting power in extreme temperatures.

Drivers should also check the air pressure in their vehicle’s tires and ensure their vehicle’s oil, antifreeze and other fluid levels are in check, Powell said.

An emergency kit including bottled water, a flashlight with spare batteries, emergency flares, jumper cables and a first aid kid should also be standard for all motorists, Powell said.

Della said AAA can be a “savior” for motorists stranded in an unfamiliar place or in need of help while on the road.