Buckle up! The roadway did...

The viral video of a car being launched airborne by a buckled Wisconsin highway may already be old news, but – given that we’re less than three weeks into the summer of 2012 – the conditions that created this dangerous situation hardly are. Many of us have already endured record-breaking heat and powerful storms – and it’s not yet even mid-July.

As we gulp down bottle after bottle of water, head to the pool, crank up the AC, take refuge in movie theaters, and find other ways of beating the heat, it’s important to remember that our vehicles need some TLC to survive these brutal months, too. And when the heat’s this bad, breakdowns can be particularly problematic, as motorists may be stranded in extreme temperatures with insufficient water and shade.

To protect yourself and your car this summer, make sure to check and top off vital fluids to keep your engine running smoothly and avoid overheating. Ensure that your tires are inflated properly, as extreme temperatures exacerbate the risk of a blowout. Keep sufficient fuel in your tank in case power failures or long lines at the pump make it difficult to find accessible gas stations in your area. If storm debris has damaged your windshield, have it replaced or repaired as soon as possible. And always carry some extra water in the trunk, just in case.

Of course, extreme heat and humidity often culminate in severe storms, which can bring down trees and utility lines, and create sudden changes in visibility and roadway conditions. Be on the lookout for fallen branches, and intersections with traffic signals that have lost power (which should be treated as all-way stops). Be patient with changes in traffic patterns, and remember that spending a few extra minutes sitting in your air-conditioned car is probably not such a bad thing after all. Taking these and other precautions can go a long way toward ensuring you – and your car – make it through the summer safely.

And remember: always wear your seatbelt. After all, you never want to encounter a situation in which the roadway is buckled…and you’re not.