Thursday, June 6, 2024

What Do You Do When Your Car Overheats

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What Are Signs Of An Overheating Engine

What To Do When Your Engine Overheats

While every vehicle and situation can be unique, there are a few common signs to be aware of when your car engine is beginning to overheat:

  • Steam coming from the front of the vehicle under the hood.
  • The engine temperature gauge in the dashboard or driver console spiking to H or moving into the red area of the gauge.
  • Strange smells or odors emanating from the front of the car, particularly near the hood. Leaking coolant can often have a sweet smell, while oil leaks will typically produce a burnt odor.

Here is a list of items to have on hand in the vehicle if your car engine overheats:

  • Small, basic tool kit

Here are the 5 steps you should take if your car overheats:

How To Prevent It Happening In The First Place

First things first everyone knows that prevention is better than the cure, and there are few areas that this is truer than in the world of automobiles, which are not only burdensomely expensive when they need to be fixed, but also highly dangerous weapons when faulty. Its in everybodys interests to keep your car in prime condition, which you can achieve by adhering to a few simple rules that demonstrate youre a responsible car owner.

Firstly, you should maintain your car regularly. Regular trips to the mechanic will help you to nip potential problems in the bud that could, if untreated, lead to overheating. Leaks, electrical failures, thermostat malfunctions or burst hoses are all common causes of overheated engines, and with a bit of luck your mechanic will spot these during a service if you make the effort to have your car checked over regularly.

Drive To A Service Station

Adding coolant does nothing to address the problem that caused your engine to overheat in the first place, but it often allows you to drive safely to the nearest repair station. A professional will need to inspect your cars cooling system, says Reina. While driving, keep an eye on the temperature gauge. And take notice of everything, like fluid under the car or steam under the hood. This basic information will greatly help in the diagnosis, Reina explains.

Download and print this PDF checklist of what to doand what items to have on handin case of overheating.

Need help on the road? Easily request roadside assistance with the GEICO Mobile app.

Read More: With any car problem, awareness is key. Here are seven car noises you should listen for. And be sure you have the right auto insurance coverage so youre prepared for whatever challenges the open road sends your way!

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How To Prevent Your Car From Overheating

Before you head out on your next summer road trip, follow these steps to prevent your car from overheating and spending your vacation at the repair shop.

  • Check your coolant level and make sure its fresh.
  • Check your drive belt to make sure there is no unusual wear and tear.
  • Check your radiator. If your cars A/C condenser sits in in front of your radiator, a buildup of leaves, bugs or mud can block the airflow.
  • Inspect your radiator cap. If the spring is too weak, it may not be able to maintain the pressure needed to prevent boiling over and overheating.

Finally, make sure to schedule a multi-point inspection on your car before heading out on any road trip or vacation. A trusted mechanic will know to check for maintenance issues that would need a quick fix to help make your drive as smooth as possible.

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What You Can Do If Your Vehicle Overheats

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A puff of white smoke, a temperature needle beginning to make its way toward the red, and there, a distinctive acrid smell of what can only be boiling coolant. And then, the needle races toward the red and that small puff of smoke becomes an impenetrable cloud. Yep, your car is overheating.

Dont worry and dont panic, youre not the first person whos had to deal with an overheating car and you wont be the last, as even our electrified truck future requires complicated thermal management systems. Most of the issues that might occur are relatively inexpensive, but there are some outliers.

To better understand your automobile and prepare for the event of your car overheating, The Drives info team is here to answer all of your burning questions and guide you through the causes of heat build-up and what you need to do to stop it. Now, lets cool down and learn!

The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.

A puff of white smoke, a temperature needle beginning to make its way toward the red, and there, a distinctive acrid smell of what can only be boiling coolant. And then, the needle races toward the red and that small puff of smoke becomes an impenetrable cloud. Yep, your car is overheating.


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What To Do When Your Car Is Overheating

  • Dont ignore signs of overheating it could cause serious engine damage

  • Stop somewhere safe as soon as you can

  • Dont open the bonnet wait for the NRMA while the engine cools

The first sign your cars engine is overheating is usually the needle on the temperature gauge rising towards the red zone, or the check engine or temperature warning light on your dashboard illuminating.

Keep in mind that even if you don’t suspect your vehicle has overheated or the needle on your gauge has not risen, it’s never a good idea to open the bonnet or remove the radiator cap after driving as it can cause serious injury.

Coolant in the radiator is extremely hot and will eventually boil and steam will rise from under the bonnet if the car has overheated. If this happens to you, stay safe by following these three simple steps from the NRMA:

How To Prevent Your Car Engine From Overheating

Dealing with an engine thats overheating can feel like flirting with disaster and something you want to avoid at all costs. To prevent your car from overheating, regular car maintenance is key. You can:

  • Maintain coolant levels
  • Do regular radiator check-ups
  • Perform routine car inspections

Maintenance can lead to prevention, which is always easier and more cost-effective compared to treating an issue.

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Dont Let The Issue Linger

An overheating engine won’t resolve on its own, even if it seems to be fixed after you add a little coolant. It will only get worse if left unaddressed. Get to the root of the issue to help save your engine. Bring your car to Firestone Complete Auto Care for a Complete Vehicle Inspection so we can diagnose the problem and make recommendations for solving it.

Why Do Engines Overheat

This Is What You Do When Your Car Is Overheating

Engines can overheat for many reasons. In general, it’s because something’s wrong within the cooling system and heat isn’t able to escape the engine compartment. The source of the issue could include a cooling system leak, faulty radiator fan, broken water pump, or clogged coolant hose.

Regardless of the problem’s source, an overheating engine isn’t something you want to let linger. Your engine could sustain serious, if not permanent, damage.

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Turn Off The Air Conditioning And Turn Up The Heat

As soon as you notice your car overheating, turn off the air conditioning to lower the stress on your engine. Crank your heater to maximum to help disperse the heat away from your engine to help is stay a little cooler until you can pull over. This may feel uncomfortable for a moment but discomfort is better than expensive engine repairs.

* Car Overheating Coolant Full:

Enhance that you perform a coolant pressure test to identify if there are any leaks in the coolants. If there are leaks in the cooling system, the cooling level will be low causing often overheating. A damaged water pump will be ineffective and will cause car overheating effects similarly if the thermostat is failed and there is no recalculation of the cooling elements.

The cooling system inspection is quite complicated and requires to be undertaken by a professional mechanic. The mechanic should use quality working machinery to enhance that they effectively diagnose the problem. The diagnosis should be supplemented by installing an excellent performing temperature thermostat to enhance that there is correct distilling water cooling ratio.

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You Think Your Engines Overheating

If you have the air conditioner on it the car, turn it off immediately, and turn on the heater. This may be the last thing youd want on a hot day, but its a crucial move if your car is beginning to overheat, as it helps to draw excess heat from the engine and thereby cool it down.

If this doesnt make your temperature gauge start to fall straight away, then this trick hasnt worked, and its time to stop driving. If the needle on the gauge is reaching the red zone, find a safe place to pull over and stop the car, turning off the engine. Then, pop the hood of your car and wait. In theory, this should be the easiest piece of advice to follow, as you dont actually actively have to do anything except wait, but youd be surprised at how many people do serious damage to their cars simply because they dont wait long enough. The key here is patience, so give your car at least half an hour, and ideally even more, to cool down properly before you even think about turning it on again.

If, once youve waited a decent length of time and turned on the engine to find that your temperature gauges needle is sufficiently far away from the dreaded red zone, drive to the nearest service station for help. Even if the car seems reasonably alright now, its worth checking to avoid future problems. Overheating engines can indicate mechanical failure, which could be really dangerous hours, days or even weeks down the line.

Pull Over When Its Safe To Do So


You need to shut off your car as soon as possible. Pull over when its safe to do for and let the engine cool off for at least 15 minutes, watching the temperature gauge. While youre waiting, its a good idea to plan how to deal with your overheated engine. This type of car problem doesnt just go away and often means that theres something wrong with your vehicle. Call a tow truck or contact your local AAMCO Bay Area service center for roadside assistance options.

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What Causes A Car Engine To Overheat

Typically, overheating is not the fault of the engine itself but rather a problem with the cooling system. The cooling systems job is to maintain a proper operating temperature for the engine.

In a 4-cylinder engine running at 2,000 rpm an explosion is happening in each cylinder more than 15 times per second, producing a lot of heat. To deal with that heat the engine block and heads have passages through which antifreeze/coolant circulates to transfer the heat from the engine. The coolant goes from the engine through a hose to the vehicle’s radiator. There, the heat from the coolant is transferred to the air passing through the radiator. The coolant, now at a lower temperature, then goes back to the engine in an endless loop.

Overheating can occur when one of the coolant passages in the engine block or head becomes clogged or starts to leak. But it is more likely to occur through some fault in the cooling system itself. For instance, there could be a leak in a hose that transfers the coolant from the engine to or from the radiator. Those hoses “wear” or deteriorate over time, so they fail. And when they do a hose that costs just a few dollars could be the cause of the destruction of an engine that costs several thousand dollars.

What To Do If Your Car Is Overheating: Step By Step

  • Pull to a stop and assess your vehicle.
  • The safest option on what to do if your car is overheating is to find a safe location and pull over. If the vehicle is overheating, driving with a potentially damaged engine may result in permanent damage.

  • Keep driving only when necessary.
  • If you are unable to come to a complete stop in a safe and clear area, keeping the vehicle moving slowly may still allow a constant airflow around the motor to aid in natural cooling. Leaving your car at rest with the engine running may aggravate the problem, causing additional and unwanted heat to be produced. If you cannot stop just yet, put your car in neutral or park, then start it up and rev the engine. This causes the fan and water pump to spin faster, pulling more air and water through your car’s radiator. The increased circulation helps to cool the engine.

  • Turn on the heat
  • Turning off the air conditioning and increasing the heat to high while the vehicle is still moving may help to draw additional heat away from the engine.

  • Open all car windows
  • The objective is to generate as much heat as possible. Another method for allowing heat to escape the vehicle is to roll down and open as many windows as possible.

  • Check the Coolant and top it off as needed
  • Start the engine again.
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    Your Engine Overheats After Extended Driving

    In some cases, your engine may be running fine and the overheating problem only occurs on extended drives or long waits in traffic. If this is the case with your car or truck, check on the following possible issues.

    Symptom: Engine overheats. Engine runs fine but gets very hot while driving. This problem usually occurs after moderate to extended periods of driving. You may or may not notice steam coming from the hood or smell coolant.

    Possible causes:

  • Any of the above causes for overheating on short trips.
  • The car is overloaded or being driven too hard. The Fix: Lighten the load and back off the gas.
  • The radiator or block may be clogged. The Fix: Reverse flush the cooling system and fill with fresh coolant.
  • Find A Safe Location To Pull Over

    What to do if your engine overheats

    Another essential thing to do when your car overheats is to find a safe and empty location where you can pull over as soon as possible. Once you’ve stopped the car, let the engine cool down for at least 15 minutes.

    It’s good to determine the next steps during this time. Reach out to an auto repair shop near you or seek roadside assistance to take your car to the repair shop.

    Don’t Keep Driving

    Lastly, never neglect the problem by continuing to drive despite knowing that your car’s engine is overheating.

    While driving with an overheated car may take you to your destination somehow, it can damage the engine, leading to increased repair expenses.

    It can be challenging and overwhelming to deal with an overheating car, especially if you don’t know what to do. The best way to combat this challenge is by taking your car to a reliable auto repair service. If you’re wondering where to get high-quality car repair services in Denver, check out the car engine and transmission repair services in Centennial at Saul’s Autotek.

    They’re one of the most dependable car repair services in Denver, employing advanced tools, technology, and experience to provide vehicle owners with premium services with guaranteed outcomes. Their popular services include brake repair, engine repair, transmission repair, wheel alignment, tune-up, hybrid vehicle repair, exotic vehicles repair, auto exhaust repair, fuel pump repair, radiator repair, and more. Contact them to learn more today!

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    What To Do And Not Do When Your Car Overheats

    Bennett Oghifo


    Engines can overheat for many reasons. In general, its because somethings wrong within the cooling system and heat isnt able to escape the engine compartment. The source of the issue could include a cooling system leak, faulty radiator fan, broken water pump, or clogged coolant hose.

    Regardless of the problems source, an overheating engine isnt something you want to let linger. Your engine could sustain serious, if not permanent, damage.


    If youre able to take steps to cool your engine before it overheats to the point of failing, you may reduce the risk of irreversible engine damage. But first, youve got to notice the symptoms of overheating, which can include: Steam coming from under the car hood. An engine temperature gauge on your dashboard that spikes to H or into the red.

    A strange smell coming from the engine area. For example, leaking coolant can smell sweet while leaking oil might smell more burnt.

    As soon as you notice the engine overheating, take the following steps and contact your nearest repair shop.




    Pull over and shut off the car. Allow the engine to cool for at least 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge, as it should move back to a normal range as the engine cools.




    Your Engine Overheats On Short Trips

    If your engine is overheating shortly after you leave, or it heats up even on short trips, you should check the following possible causes and repair suggestions.

    Symptom: Engine quickly overheats. Engine runs fine but gets very hot shortly after you start it. This problem usually occurs after only five minutes or after traveling about a mile. You may or may not notice steam coming from the hood or smell coolant.

    Possible causes:

  • Engine coolant level may be very low. The Fix: Refill the coolant to the proper level.
  • Engine’s drive belts may be broken or slipping. The Fix: Tighten or replace the belts.
  • The electric cooling fan may not be coming on. The Fix: Repair or replace the cooling fan. Repair wiring. Replace the cooling fan temp sensor.
  • The ignition timing may be set wrong. The Fix: Adjust ignition timing.
  • There may be a vacuum leak. The Fix: Check and replace vacuum lines as required.
  • The engine may have mechanical problems. The Fix: Check compression to determine the engine’s condition.
  • The engine’s thermostat may be stuck closed. The Fix: Replace the thermostat.
  • There may be a leak in the cooling system. The Fix: Repair the leak and refill coolant.
  • Cylinder head gasket may be bad. The Fix: Replace any bad gaskets.
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