Basingstoke, United Kingdom (PressExposure) June 29, 2009 -- An AA/Populus poll of more than 14,500 AA members found that a quarter of women respondents admit to never checking it, compared to 10 per cent of men, while at the other end of the scale, four times as many men (28%) than women (7%) do the recommended weekly check.
The research shows that Welsh drivers are the best prepared with 24 per cent inspecting weekly while Londoners lag behind (14%) and they are also most likely to never check (18%).
Londonersâ excuse may be partly due to ignorance with more than a fifth (22%) unaware of how to check the coolant level. Overall, nearly all men (93%) claim to know how to, compared with less than two-thirds of women (61%).
What a scorcher Overheating is a much bigger problem during the summer, as engines operate at higher temperatures â there isnât the cold winter air to take away a lot of the heat, increasing car breakdown cover calls.
Stewart Topp, AA patrol of the year, says: âMany cars are only used on the same local trips with the engine barely reaching normal operating temperature, so the cooling system is hardly tested. However, that all changes when the car is suddenly loaded with luggage and passengers for a long holiday trip in hot weather, exposing any problems in the system.
âDrivers should get into the habit of regularly checking their car including the coolant level and fan. If you notice that the coolant has dropped, get it checked out, as modern cooling systems shouldnât really need topping up between services.â
Fan-tastic cooling A seized cooling fan is the most common initial cause of overheating but the survey showed that only 6 per cent of drivers knew this.
Stewart explains its importance: âWhen you get caught in traffic, the cooling fan will cut in and draw air through the radiator. If the fan motor has seized, say through lack of use, the coolant will get hotter until it boils and is lost from the system. If you donât spot this and turn off the engine, the head gasket will probably fail causing expensive damage.â
Checks are also important before travelling in Europe warns AA European Breakdown Cover.
Chill out If drivers notice the temperature gauge rise, the most effective way of temporarily dealing with it is to turn the heater up full and the air conditioning on but less than a third of female drivers (30%) and half of men (50%) knew this. Drivers in the South-west were the most clued up (49%) but those in Northern Ireland would risk the most damage (33%). More than a third of women (36%) compared to 16 per cent of men indicated they were completely unaware of how to deal with an overheating engine at all.
Stewart concludes: âIf your car overheats, at best, youâll likely have to cough up around Â£250 to repair the cooling fan or Â£1,000 for a head gasket and, at worst, several times that for a new engine. So, with a hot summer forecast, itâs never been a better time to get your handbook out and spend a few minutes now to potentially save yourself a lot of money and time later.â
Help is at hand The AA has produced a video guide to checking your car coolant level, available to download as a podcast.
To help its members avoid problems, the AA has teamed up with Nationwide Autocentres to offer them free summer car checks. The free summer check at Nationwide Autocentres is available to AA members only and is a 15-point maintenance inspection.