Car fire
Keeping flammable objects in closed cars, where temperatures can go quite high, is dangerous. With the high temperatures during the summer months, any unattended item which is flammable can pose a very real risk of fire. Picture used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Supplied

In an advisory issued by the UAE's Ministry of Interior on Tuesday, July 2, motorists were warned against leaving their car running for too long, when not in use. The scorching summer can be brutal on both your car and you, and it’s crucial for drivers to take precautions to avoid car fires, which pose a significant risk during this season.

The advisory from MOI comes as part of its ‘Summer without accidents’ campaign. During the hotter months, police departments across the UAE regularly educate motorists on the dangers of car fires and heat-related impact on vehicles.

3 things to do

To ensure your safety and that of your vehicle during the summer, follow these tips from MOI:

• Avoid leaving your vehicle idle for extended periods.
• Never leave your children unattended in the car.
• Make sure that no flammable materials are placed inside the car.

What does it mean to leave your car idle?

Leaving your car idle refers to leaving the car’s engine running while it is not moving or being used.

Common flammable materials that you should not place inside the car

• Perfumes and deodorants
• Hand sanitisers
• Cleaning sprays
• Lighters

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Here are some additional things that you can do to make sure that your car is well-maintained and not vulnerable to heat-related accidents.

1. Inspect your engine oil on a daily basis

While your engine's dashboard may be a convenient way to check whether your vehicle's oil and coolant levels are optimal, you can do a physical check of these essential fluids quite easily as well. The first place to look is your car dashboard - are there any alerts that require your attention?

The oil in your engine is the fluid that keeps everything operating smoothly. If your car runs out of oil, the engine will have no lubrication and seize up, which can lead to a hefty workshop bill.

How to check vehicle's oil level - To check your car's oil, first make sure your car is parked on level ground and the engine has been turned off for long enough for the vehicle to have cooled down.

Then pop open the bonnet and look for a bright-coloured handle, which is essentially the dip stick that helps you gauge the oil level. Pull it out, making sure to remove any clips that may be holding it in place.

Wipe the stick clean with a cloth or tissue and then stick it in again. When you pull it back out, it will give you an idea of your vehicle's oil level. It should be between the minimum and maximum marks. If it's not, then you would need to top it up.

Make sure you know what grade of oil is recommended for your vehicle, which would be mentioned in the owner's manual.

2. Check the coolant levels regularly

The coolant in your vehicle helps regulate the temperature in the vehicle, preventing it from overheating.

How to check vehicle's water level - To check the coolant level, again, make sure your engine has cooled down. Locate the coolant reservoir, which will be an opaque tank. Check the level of the coolant to make sure the levels are sufficient.

3. At the petrol station - don't smoke and turn off the engine

Refueling a running vehicle increases the chances of gas vapours coming into contact with heat or electricity. For this reason, petrol stations across the UAE advise motorists to turn off the engine and not smoke while filling up petrol.

4. Ensure you have a fire extinguisher in your car

Although fire extinguishers are now compulsory in all UAE-registered cars, do you know how to use one in case of an emergency? Also, when was the last time you inspected it? The first thing to always check is if the fire extinguisher is still good to use, as they would have a limited lifespan. The date is mentioned on the extinguisher.

Secondly, it is advisable to thoroughly go through the user's manual to ensure you are aware of how to pull out the extinguisher correctly from your vehicle and use it at a time of emergency. It would be ideal to take basic fire extinguisher training as well.

5. Check tyre pressure

Did you know that tyre pressure increases by 0.1 bar, or 1.4 PSI (pound per square inch), for every 10°C change in ambient temperature? As tyres usually have air pressure between 30 to 35 PSI the heat can increase the pressure inside tyres considerably, making them expand. If tyres are worn out or not carefully maintained, this can lead to a tyre burst. Thankfully, every petrol station in the UAE has a station where you can check the tyre pressure easily. It is also important to note that driving worn out tyres is unsafe and against the federal traffic law. Tyres that are worn out, or older than five years, should not be used, for your safety and for the safety of other road users.

How to keep tyres safe during the summer
• Buy tyres from authorised dealers only.
• If possible, buy all four tyres together to ensure even wear.
• The tyres should be rotated and balanced every 10,000km and at every 15,000km to 20,000km you should get the wheels aligned.
• Check the tyre tread if your vehicle is being used heavily. Often, if your job entails driving long distances, the tyre tread might wear out and the tyres would need to be replaced before the five-year validity.

By following these basic precautions and staying alert, you can ensure your safety while on UAE roads.