Driving in a heatwave! So, just how hot is too hot?

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The stuff of Outback nightmares!

The recent extreme heatwave that has scorched much of Australia baking has left grey nomads and other travellers pondering the same question … is it safe to drive out there?

Obviously, temperatures of 40 degrees-plus present clear and present danger for anyone outside engaging in some sort of physical activity … but what about the vehicles themselves?

Bob Woodward, the Chief Engineer of the Australian Trucking Association, says that while modern heavy vehicles are much better than they were in decades past, they still struggle with the heat.

“Thirty years or so ago, you saw cars and trucks on the side of the road everywhere when it was hot,” he told Freight Waves magazine. “Today, you still see one or two.”

Woodward explains that, in high temperatures, heat rejection is a problem. Heat rejection is another term for “waste heat” – the heat that is produced as a by-product of a machine’s operation.

He told the magazine that the problem was keeping the engine cool enough to work properly.

“Internal combustion engines are inefficient – you only get 40% as power, the rest is lost in the exhaust or through other loss,” he said. “Most locally built trucks have good cooling packages, but once above 40 C (104 F) you need the drivers to help.”

He said that driving more slowly could make a huge difference as less power meant less heat to get rid of. And, if the heat’s not taken care of, then the engine might just shut down.

Freight Waves reports that it is not only the engine that is at risk. Hot weather can increase the pressure inside tyres, especially when tyres are directly exposed to sunlight. Independent tyre retailer, TyrePower, warns that having the incorrect pressure may lead to poor fuel mileage, a reduction in the tyres’ life and sub-optimal handling.

  • Has your vehicle ever struggled in the heat? Is there a temperature above which you refuse to drive? Comment below.

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3 Responses to Driving in a heatwave! So, just how hot is too hot?

  1. Any engine will struggle with the aircon on in the car. Stay in the van and plan shorter trips leaving early in the morning.

  2. Great article. If you have TPMS you see how much tyre pressure varies on the run. With our long straight roads, the sunny side of the car, tyre pressure is a lot higher. Our last trip TPMS saved three tyres, we stopped and plugged them in time.

  3. Bull bars and spotties can restrict airflow and cause air flow sensors to cut back fuel resulting in a drop of power. 200 series cruisers with the intercooler scoops through the grill are a prime example. The big top bar can block cool air flow to the intercooler. Slow down when its extremely hot.

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