Summer is here and that means many people will soon jump in their cars and head out for vacation. This also means hot temperatures, sometimes reaching triple digits, will also soon be upon us. The combination of summer heat and long road trips means vehicle owners need to take preventative measures to make sure their vehicles are ready for the trip ahead. Getting stuck in a parking lot or alongside a busy highway can be extremely unsafe and costly.

"Being aware of the negative effects of heat and other stresses on your vehicle, and especially your car battery, can keep you and your loved ones safe this summer," says Courtney Caldwell, Editor In Chief of Road & Travel Magazine. "The combination of heavy electrical loads caused by increasingly popular game systems, video equipment and stereo systems along with extreme summer temperatures can kill a battery and leave you stranded during the most inopportune times, which could put you and your family in danger."

Getting a vehicle prepared for a road trip and equipping it with products that can stand up to extreme temperatures and increased electrical loads can save a tremendous amount of time, headaches and maintenance costs. Courtney Caldwell offers the following tips to prepare your vehicle for that fast approaching summer road trip:

Inspect your battery
Winter weather often gets the blame for battery failure, but it's the summer heat that does the most damage to a battery. With traditional lead-acid batteries you should clean all surfaces and ensure a clean connection between the posts and cables. If battery caps are removable, check the fluid level. Avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves.

Check the coolant level and other fluids
Antifreeze should be replaced annually in most vehicles and the cooling system should be checked, flushed and filled before a long road trip. There are several other fluids, in addition to antifreeze, that require attention prior to summer travel, including engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission fluids and windshield washer solvent.

Examine hoses and belts
Because extreme heat can cause leaks and other damage, keep an eye out for worn or cracked hoses. A belt that fails can affect the electrical system, air conditioning and power steering, as well as the cooling system. A damaged or loose belt can cause the engine to overheat. Not replacing the belt as required could cause a breakdown or serious engine problems. Cooling system hoses may be deteriorating from within, so old hoses and clamps in marginal condition should be replaced.

Maximize performance and gas mileage
Replace damaged or missing gas caps -- about 17 percent of the vehicles on the road have gas caps that are either damaged, loose or are missing altogether, causing 147 million gallons of gas to vaporize every year. Make sure tires are inflated -- when tires aren't inflated properly it's like driving with the parking brake on and can cost a mile or two per gallon. Dirty air filters -- an air filter that is clogged with dirt, dust and bugs chokes off the air and creates a "rich" mixture -- too much gas being burned for the amount of air, which wastes gas and causes the engine to lose power. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.

"Consumers in hot climates need to be proactive when it comes to prepping their vehicles for summer travel," explains Stephen Kepler, general manager of Optima Batteries. "Since battery failure is one of the most common causes of vehicle break-downs, the best solution is to purchase an advanced technology battery designed to give longer life and better performance. "