If you've never experienced car problems related to summer heat, you're in the minority, a new poll reveals.

How to protect your car during the dog days of summer

Welcome to the dog days of summer. Stretching from mid-to-late-June until mid-to-late-August, most of us use the term to refer to summer’s swan song, the time when temperatures soar to uncomfortable highs, bringing our activity levels to somewhere between lazy and lackadaisical. In reality, though, according to historians, the phrase “dog days” was originally used by the ancient Romans and Greeks to refer to the constellation Sirius, or what is known as the Dog Star. Appearing in the sky during the wee morning hours just before the sun rises, Sirius shines especially brightly this time of year.

It’s the heat and humidity that has come to define the dog days in today’s day and age, and based on a newly released survey, many Americans have experienced them from the often uncomfortable confines of their un-air-conditioned vehicles.

Over three-quarters of motorists say they’ve been adversely affected by heat in some form or fashion in the summertime, according to a recent poll conducted by Hankook Tire. For example, of those surveyed, over 40% indicated their air conditioning has broke down when conditions have been stifling – perhaps the worst time of year for the A/C to bite the bullet.

Nearly one-third – 32% – have had their car overheat on them before, the poll also revealed. Overheating can result from a number of engine-related problems, but it typically stems from the coolant reservoir running out of antifreeze or the radiator malfunctioning.

It’s little wonder why the summer swelter can lead to heat hassles. After all, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, temperatures inside a parked car can be nearly double what they are outside on an 80 degree day. This may explain why many Americans opt for coolness over convenience when outdoor temperatures reach a boiling point. Nearly two-thirds of car owners say that when it’s hot out, they’d rather park in a spot with shade versus one that was close to their intended destination, such as a shopping mall or workplace, the Hankook poll found.

While shade may prevent your car’s interior from feeling like a furnace, it won’t defend it from the ill effects oppressive conditions can have on your vehicle. The following are a few ways you can protect your car from heat horrors:

Check the coolant

It probably comes as no surprise, but the biggest automotive casualty in the summertime is the coolant system, according to the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. More people breakdown due to overheating than any other issue. As a general rule, drivers should have the coolant flushed from the reservoir once every two years. When replacing it with antifreeze, mechanics recommend mixing it with water. In other words, half of the refill should be water and the remaining 50% should be coolant.

Pull up the dipstick

When was the last time you had your oil filled? Better yet, when was the last time you had it replaced? Generally speaking, mechanics recommend having the oil changed once every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, depending on the type of oil you use and how often you drive. If you’re new to automotive ownership and want to change the oil yourself, don’t forget to pick up an oil filter in addition to the oil that your takes, which you can determine by consulting the owner’s manual. Also, every few weeks, pull up the dipstick to see where the oil volume is at. Just be sure to check it well after you’ve turned off the ignition. When checking during or shortly after the engine has been running, it can prevent you from getting a truly accurate reading.

Have A/C serviced

It’s easy to forget the air conditioning, especially in the winter when a cozy interior is top of mind. Check your owner’s manual to determine your A/C’s service schedule. The manual should have information both on symptoms that indicate it’s in need of repair as well as what you can do to ensure it performs properly when you need it the most.

For more tips on giving your car it’s summertime treatment, check out ASE’s website. The Car Care Council has some suggestions as well, especially if you’re planning an end-of-summer road trip.