Hot weather motoring myths. What you can and can’t do to beat the heat

Hot weather

Legal or not? Find out whether it’s against the law to drive in flip flops (Picture iStock/JordanSimeonov)

Whether it’s hot or cold, extremes in temperature pose problems for drivers. And when the weather’s doing something we’re not used to, we need to know how to react. Here we bust seven popular hot weather motoring myths.

Myth 1: it’s illegal to drive in flip flops

It’s completely legal to drive in flip flops, sandals and even bare foot. You just have to be able to operate the controls safely. If you get in the car with wet feet that could slip off the pedals and put other road users at risk, that is against the law.

However, the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) does advise: “We would not recommend driving barefoot because you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.” And if your inappropriate footwear is found to be directly responsible for a crash, your insurer may not cover you.

Myth 2: it’s illegal to leave a pet in a car

The act itself isn’t against the law. But if something happens to your pet, as a consequence of it being shut in the car, you can be prosecuted under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act. If convicted, you could end up in prison for up to six months and be slapped with an unlimited fine.

Hot weather

Dogs can quickly overheat when left in parked cars (Picture iStock/pk-photos)

Myth 3: it’s illegal to smash a car window to rescue a pet

You can legally break into a car to save a pet in distress but you must take certain steps first. Website Ask the Police says you should first ring the police on 101 or 999. If they can’t get there and you want to act, tell the police what you intend to do first. Then take photos or video of the suffering animal and get names and contact details for witnesses.

The Criminal Damage Act 1971 says you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if: “At the time of the act or acts alleged to constitute the offence you believed that the person or persons whom you believe to be entitled to consent to the destruction of or damage to the property in question . . .  would so consent to it if s/he . . . had known of the destruction or damage and its circumstances.”

Myth 4: when it’s hot you get more fuel by filling up at night

The thinking behind this is that when it’s cooler, fuel is denser. When it heats up, it increases in volume, not density. Therefore, buy cooler fuel and you’ll get more for your money.

That does make perfect sense but when people say fill up when the air’s cooler, in the early morning or at night, they’re not taking into account where fuel is stored. And that is in massive tanks buried underground ‑ where it’s cool. So it really doesn’t matter when you fill up.

Myth 5: tyres wear more in hot weather

This depends on the tyre and how hot the weather is. Tyres are made up of a mix of chemicals called a compound. The compound of the regular ‘summer’ tyres fitted to most of our cars are designed to operate across a wide temperature window. Equally, the tread patterns provide a compromise between dissipating water, managing heat, noise, and wear.

You would imagine that very hot weather would increase friction between tyre and road and therefore tyre wear. While this may be true, tyre experts say it can be offset by the increase in air pressure inside the tyre. This slightly reduces the amount of tread in contact with the road.

With winter tyres, it’s slightly different. Their compound and tread pattern are designed to generate grip in low temperatures and on slippery surfaces. The downside is the compound isn’t as resistant to wear, particularly when the weather’s hot.

Myth 6: I can’t top up my radiator with water

Can you or can’t you? (Picture iStock/Parkpoom)

The coolant in a car’s radiator is a mix of water and anti-freeze. To stop the rad freezing up when the weather gets cold there must be the right proportion of water to anti-freeze. But needs must and your car must have sufficient coolant when the weather’s hot. You can see if it’s got enough by looking at the expansion tank beneath the bonnet. And if the level isn’t between the minimum and maximum markers, topping it up with water will at least ensure the engine stays cool.

But long-term, you do need to have the correct ratio of water to anti-freeze. When it goes to the garage – well in advance of cold weather – ask them to do a concentration test on your coolant and adjust accordingly.

Myth 7: turning on the heater doesn’t cool the engine

If you notice your car’s temperature gauge climbing, there’s a quick and very temporary solution. Turn the air-con off (this is powered by the engine) and put the heating on. Hot water from the engine will flow through the heater’s core. This will act like another radiator with heat being drawn away from the engine. It is just a ‘get you home or to a garage’ fix. It’s not normal for an engine to overheat, no matter how hot the weather is, so seek professional attention.

4 comments on “Hot weather motoring myths. What you can and can’t do to beat the heat

  1. Eric Hayman 08/08/2018 6:58 AM

    Has Green Flag joined the misconception that, as one police officer falsely claimed, “there is no such thing as an accident”? Wearing certain types of footwear – or none can lead to an accident, but not all accidents are “crashes”. A car going into a river or lake is not a crash, just an accident – unless it was intentional.

    As for footwear, many small cars have the pedals close together, so that if the driver is wearing boots of any sort there is a risk of one boot interfering with the wrong pedal, for example, the right side of a boot catching the accelerator when braking. This can happen as easily with gum boots as with work boots or even winter time insulated footwear

    • Chris r 01/06/2019 11:21 PM

      i am 70 years old and have held my full licence since 1970. I still drive in flip-flops and even bare feet if the weather is really hot . I have never found either of these practises prevent me from driving safely

  2. B Dixon 08/08/2018 9:33 PM

    Good to read

  3. ian 03/06/2019 9:58 PM

    Driving in flip flops in Spain is illegal – so be aware if you drive overseas.

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