Gridlock Guy: Summertime is ‘stalled car’ season

When you are a kid, summertime usually brings thoughts of beaches, barbeques and backyard fun. Not for me. When I was a kid summertime meant sweating in my Dad’s car. No matter how hot it got outside, or how blistering it got inside his car, my father never turned on his air conditioning. Ever.

That probably explains, as I’ve gotten older, why I overuse my car’s AC. I try to avoid having flashbacks to my childhood when my 8-year-old legs would get stuck to my Father’s vinyl seats. Now, I crank that AC up when it hits 70 outside.

In the world of traffic reporters, however, summertime means one thing. Overheated cars.

Yes the season of 90-plus degree temperatures is here and with it, the unofficial start of stalled car season on our interstates.

Its simple really. When the temps go up, people turn on the air conditioning for the first time in months. Unfortunately most drivers don’t make sure that their cars AC system is ready for use. As a result, vehicles that aren’t ready tend to overheat. When they overheat, they stall, and when they stall, they create traffic backups. I’m writing this today in the hope that we can prevent some of these issues.

I called my buddy Steve Braxton from Braxton Automotive Group to get some advice for Atlanta drivers heading into the sweltering summer months.

“The number one thing people should do is, take their vehicle in and have all the fluids checked on it,” Braxton said. “Particularly the engine coolant.”

In addition to coolant, Braxton suggests to make sure your car has enough oil.

“Engine oil is used not only as a lubricant,” Braxton said. “But also as a coolant for the engine. It’s very important.”

I’m sure a lot of you reading this started using you car’s AC when the temps hit 80, I know I did. It might have worked fine then, but as the mercury tops 90, it becomes a whole new ballgame.

“What typically will happen when the temps hit the 90s people will say ‘oh my gosh its not cooling well’” Braxton said. “Your air conditioning might work perfectly well in the 80 degree temperature range, but when it hits 90 everything needs to be functioning properly.”

If all of your fluids are fine and your air conditioning is working perfectly, Braxton offers another piece of sound advice to keep yourself cool during your daily commute.

“Use the recirculation button in your car. Make sure it is on,” Braxton said. “That way your car won’t suck in the hot the air from outside. It will recirculate the air from inside.”

Or, you can be like my Dad, and just ignore the fact that your car even has air conditioning.