Ford Focus Ice

Today is officially the hottest day in the UK for 9 years, with temperatures hitting 35 degrees. In fact, right now London is hotter than sun-kissed destinations such as Miami, LA, Rome, Hong Kong and Barcelona.

In fact, the AA’s president Edmund King has warned motorists that the weather is so hot it could melt the roads. As tarmac temperatures soar to 50 degrees gritters have been sent out to fix the roads.

Meanwhile, rail services in the South East have been cancelled and delayed, as trains observe lower speed limits to avoid rails buckling in the heat. This is pushing more motorists onto the roads – prepare for a long drive home!

As weather forecasters already fall over themselves to speculate whether today could be the hottest day in Britain EVER, here are 8 handy tips for driving in the heat.

1. Keep yourself cool

1. Keep yourself cool

Highway code rule 237 says: “Keep your vehicle well ventilated to avoid drowsiness”.

At lower speeds, try cracking opening a window to keep fresh air flowing through the car. You can keep the air con on too – otherwise, the hot air will soon have the cabin scorching hot – but having a window ajar will stop the air drying out.

What about the extra fuel cost? It will be negligible – the air con will already be working hard…

2. Air con-trol

If you’re driving at higher speeds, such as on motorways, open windows will cause too much drag and increase your fuel consumption (not to mention the noise and distraction).

Leave it to the air con or, better still, the climate control system. This will turn the fan up and down, and alter the amount of heat added to the cooled condensed air, to maintain the cabin at a constant temperature.

Some systems even have light sensors, so they can tell when the sun is shining directly on the car, and crank up the air con a bit more to offset it…

3. Keep hydrated

Classic Pepsi Ford Transit

The hotter it is, the quicker you’ll dehydrate, and the sooner you’ll loose concentration. If you’re on a long drive, take a bottle of water with you.

OK, you may have to pay a fortune for it at motorway services, but it will make a big difference – particularly, as we’ve mentioned, if you’re driving a climate controlled car where you may not even notice the onset of dehydration.

A money-saving tip is to take a bottle of tap water with you – and keep it tucked away in the boot before you set off, so it doesn’t heat up too much beforehand.

4. Shades on

Wear a pair of sunglasses to avoid being dazzled in particular by low evening sun. It’s less of a factor in the summertime, but those commuting out of hours will still benefit from the safety boost.

Mind you, sunglasses should be essential any time it’s particularly sunny. Sun visors can only do so much and you can never predict when you’ll be caught out by the glare in a reflected windscreen or shopfront.

Besides, who wants to drive for hours on end squinting to see out? A decent pair of sunglasses will not only avoid this, but help make you look, er, that bit cooler…

5. Plan ahead

5. Plan ahead

Network Rail has warned it will be imposing speed restrictions on some lines during the peak of the heatwave, so expect the risk of public transport chaos to force drivers onto the road.

It says this will be less of an issue for the morning rush hour, because conditions will still be cool. However, in the evening, things will be very different – and disruptions are inevitable.

Check traffic conditions before you leave, and, if necessary, find an alternative means of travel. After all, you don’t really want to be stuck on a sweltering station platform when you could be in the cocoon of your climate-controlled car.

6. Check your car

You’ve brought a bottle of water for yourself, but remember you car needs it too. In fact, cars are more likely to overheat in hot weather, especially if you find yourself sitting in traffic, so check the water level before you set off.

While you’ve got the bonnet open, have a look at the oil level, and check you have enough brake fluid. Hot days bring out the bugs, so topping up with some good screen wash is a must.

When driving, keep an eye on the temperature gauge. If it’s getting too hot, pull over where safe to do so and switch off the engine. Whatever you do now, don’t try and top up the water straight away. The system will still be under pressure and you’ll end up scalding yourself as boiling hot water squirts out.

7. At your destination

7. At your destination

If you’re leaving children or pets in the car, leave the window open slightly, or the vehicle will heat up very quickly. Better still, avoid this dangerous practice completely.

Consider a sunshade in the windscreen so the car doesn’t become uncomfortably hot when you return.

Some cars let you open the windows remotely by holding down the unlock button on the fob, which can be a lifesaver in boiling temperatures.

8. And after the heatwave?

Highway code rule 237 also states: “…if it rains after a dry spell [the road surface] may become slippery. These conditions could affect your steering and braking.”

This is the UK after all, and it wouldn’t be the UK without some summer showers. When they come, remember the roads will be slippier than usual wet conditions.