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The Effects of Dry Heat on Your Car: A Primer

Desert car

The effects of dry heat on your car might not be immediately obvious. After all, most of what you’ve likely heard about vehicle maintenance warns against damp conditions, snow, ice or road salt.

In a climate where rain is an infrequent concern, is there anything in particular that you need to consider when it comes to protecting your car or truck from the heat? Of course there is — but don’t worry, we’ve got your covered. Check out these tips on how to protect your car from dry heat.

It’s All About the Sun

It turns out that the most common effects of dry heat on a vehicle are associated with the sun’s near-constant rays. In southern environments where moisture is rare — but so is cloud cover — the sun can exact a toll on both the interior and exterior of your car and also damage components you might not have even been worried about, like your tires.

Interior Heat

Baking away all day in the heat, your car’s cabin can get as hot as an oven. The plastics and other materials used inside the passenger compartments of modern vehicles were never intended to be subjected to such intense heat, and as a result, they can be damaged by constant exposure. Some of the effects of dry heat include adhesives losing their grip, causing panels to peel away or fall off, dashboards cracking and plastics of all kinds shrinking or discoloring.

The best protection? Park in the shade or buy a portable sunshade that you can deploy on your windshield or rear window to keep out as much of the sun as you can. You can also apply chemical sealants that will help protect your plastic, vinyl and rubber components.

Paint Problems

The UV rays associated with the effects of dry heat from the sun can do a number on your vehicle’s paint. The clear coat that seals in your car’s color will eventually break down if it’s left out in the hot sun day after day with no protection, causing cracking, peeling and eventually a dullness to your automobile’s finish. The best protection is again to seek shelter every time you park, but if that’s not possible then a regular coat of wax will help serve as a barrier against UV damage.

Tire Cracking tire cracking

The term “dry rot” was coined in part to describe the damage that can be done by the sun’s ultraviolet rays on rubber components, especially tires. Rubber molecules break down in the presence of UV light, which is why you often see RVs with tire covers when they are going to be parked long term. Chances are these vehicles will be exposed to the sun for many hours every day. Since tire covers probably aren’t practical for your car, a good alternative is to use a rubber protectant that can help seal the rubber against UV damage.

Dry heat can damage automotive components, but if you keep an eye out and stay aware of the risks you can protect your car.

Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on the effects of dry heat on your car, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.


Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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