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October 1, 2014

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Desert heat only magnifies problems that can occur in or with our cars

In the extreme heat of Las Vegas, the term “car accident” takes on a new meaning.

Vehicles don't have to be moving or even occupied to become damaged or disabled. All it takes is the sun to melt a candy bar on a seat cushion or for the heat to sap an already-weakened battery.

Jay Blynn, owner of Jay's Mobile Detail & Carpet Cleaning, and others offered several tips to help protect cars and belongings as summertime approaches.

    • Car batteries, windshield wipers, tires

      AAA sales agent Cynthia Miller said her company, which provides auto services and car insurance, replaces more batteries in the summertime than any other season.

      "The heat can drain the batteries," Miller said.

      Blynn said the harsh, arid heat could ruin windshield wipers and fan belts because all the moisture is sucked out of car parts.

      Blynn added that tires also were more likely to be ruined during the hot season.

      "When it heats up, it starts blowing up," he said about tires.

      To counteract the heat's effects on your car, Blynn said car owners should perform car maintenance at least once a week and try to park in shaded areas, garages or other covered spaces.

      "Park out of the actual rays of the sun so it's not directly facing the interior," Blynn said.

    • Cellphones, laptops, electronics

      If you accidentally leave your cellphone on the dashboard on a hot day, numerous components are at risk.

      Erica Lozano, who works at iPhone Doctor Las Vegas, 1444 E. Charleston, said heat could cause the phone’s battery to explode.

      "The best thing to do is keep (your cellphone) in the shade or a cool place like a purse or pocket," Lozano said.

      Some cellphones issue a temperature warning and inform the user that the device needs to cool before it can be used.

      Other electronics with sensitive batteries, such as laptops, should not be kept in direct sunlight.

    • Chocolate, candy, makeup, crayons

      Raise your syrupy hand if you've put your hand into a random compartment looking for your sunglasses or some other belongings only to feel melted, baked chocolate.

      Steer clear of the mess and remind yourself to get rid of the sweets so that the interior of your car doesn't have a new chocolate coating when you return to it.

      Blynn noted that in addition to candy, he commonly sees makeup, lipstick, pens and crayons melted in cars.

      "It can take one to two hours to get the stains out," Blynn said.

    • Juice and water bottles

      Spilled juice or stored bottled water also can cause problems in the heat.

      Juice stains can be impossible to get out of a car — especially if the stain is exposed to high heat, Blynn said.

      "Depending on what color it is and if it has a dye, normally the stains don't come out. We can lighten it, but it doesn't come out," he said.

      He said it’s possible the heat will “bake” the juice into the carpet of the car.

      Car owners should be wary of leaving water bottles in a hot car.

      "If you keep a water bottle that is open for longer than eight hours in a car, throw it out," said Blynn, who noted bottled water left in sunlight could spawn bacteria growth.

    • Leftovers

      Remember that cheesy, garlic-doused lunch you had this afternoon? Well, if you leave the remnants of your once-delicious meal in your car, the scent might seep into the carpet and travel through the ventilation systems.

      Blynn said food odor can ferment and the heat can enhance the smell.

      If a car isn't given a deep cleaning, which could take up to two hours, Blynn said an odor could potentially remain in a car forever.

      To avoid a pungent odor, remove food and groceries from your car before they have a chance to “ripen” in the heat.

    • Medications

      Alicia Withers, a certified pharmacy technician at Partell Specialty Pharmacy, said extreme heat could change the chemistry of some medications and render them useless.

      "It really depends on the drug. Some have to be frozen, some have to be room temperature. I would advise against leaving medication in the car, especially in Las Vegas," Withers said.

      Withers said most over-the-counter drugs and tablets, such as Tylenol, should always be kept at room temperature.

    • Pets

      It seems like a no-brainer to keep pets out of hot cars, but there are still reports of heat-related pet deaths in the United States. Dan Kulin, public information officer for Clark County Animal Control, said there were 357 local reports of animals left in cars in 2012.

      Karen Layne, president of the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society, emphasized that animals should never be left in cars. She said tourists often don't comprehend the vast temperature difference when they visit Las Vegas.

      "People think that it's OK to leave their animal in a car at night, but it's not. It's still 95 or 100 degrees (in the dead of summer)," Layne said.

    • Soda cans

      Although the Discovery Channel show "Mythbusters" supposedly debunked the idea that soda cans could become hot enough to explode in a car, there are some news reports and online videos that suggest otherwise.

      So does UNLV physics professor Yusheng Zhao.

      He said that when the temperature is low, gases in a soda are easily absorbed and remain in the liquid of the soda. However, he added, as the temperature increases, the pressure builds because the volume of the gases increases within the soda can. Zhao said the can, made out of a thin aluminum, might not be strong enough to hold the built-up gas pressure.

      "It blows up suddenly and drastically," Zhao said.

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    1. Interesting. Out of all the tips mentioned, one glaring omission was the incidence of valley morons leaving their CHILDREN in cars. It happens every summer here, and usually results in tragic consequences for the child.

    2. Tesla - Enough said.

    3. Tesla charges $40K for replacement batteries in their roadster models. No thank you.

      Soda cans exploding in cars? I had it happen to me. All over the seats, dash, headliner, everywhere! It's more apt to happen with wide-mouth cans like Sprite.

      The biggest thing that drives me nuts in the summertime are morons who top-off their gas tanks. See, when you top off your gas, liquid gasoline spills down the vapor tube and clogs up the charcoal canister in your emissions recovery system. When gasoline heats up in the Vegas heat, it creates a fair amount of positive pressure in the fuel tank. Normally that charcoal canister opens up and sucks the fumes out of the gas tank and passes them along to the Intake Manifold of the engine where they are burned up. When all that gets clogged, the pressure has no where to go, so it pushes out past the gas cap (it also causes the pickup hoses to collapse leading to starved fuel pumps that buzz loudly and burn out soon, and sluggish engines). There is nothing worse than sitting in traffic and getting a headache from inhaling gasoline fumes from some moron's car because he or she keeps on topping-off.

    4. Considering how bad the heat is here it amazes me that so many people don't leave room in the garage to park their car out of the sun. I still remember as a kid getting into my moms VW Bug with the vinyl seats covered by old towels so we didn't scorch ourselves. So it is so nice these days to get into a car that is not an oven.