Why Your Vehicle Wont Start
All modern vehicles are as you know ran by computer and most are programmed to shut off the engine if coolant temperature becomes critically high. It does this for the protection of your engine.
This isnt the only possible reason you car wont start but it is the most likely reason.
Your vehicle will likely start again after the coolant temperature decreases sufficiently, but you will need to run a few checks first. See below.
What Causes Your Cars Engine To Overheat
Hot weather can make it more likely for your cars engine to overheat, but there are other factors that also play a part in this problem. For instance, overheating can occur if your cars coolant levels are low or if theres a problem with a component of your cars cooling system, such as the thermostat, radiator or heater core.
Your Safety Comes First
Obviously your safety is important. If you can limp you car off the road and park in a safe area great, do so. If thats not possible, take a moment to assess your situation. Is traffic fast moving and visibility poor? Are you stranded on a blind bend? If so, consider moving all passengers and yourself to a safer location.
Ask your passengers to move upstream of the vehicle by a 100 yards or so and to stand clear of the roadside. This way an accidental impact wont cause debris to fly towards the stranded passengers.
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Kill The A/c And Crank The Heat
Immediately turn off the air conditioner to reduce stress on the engine. Then, turn the dial to maximum heat. This can help pull heat away from the engine to keep it from overheating until you can pull over in a safe location. You may get a little hot yourself, but a few minutes of discomfort is a small price to pay compared to major engine repairs.
Know When To Call For A Tow
If you open your hood and your engine has puked coolant or oil everywhere, or if you look under the car and see a large coolant leak, its best to call for a tow. Additionally, if you noticed warped or cracked engine components or your engine oil is discolored , you will want to opt for a tow truck to take your vehicle to the nearest mechanic.
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Use Car Window Shades
Keeping window shades in the car is helpful because you cant always guarantee that youll find a shaded or covered area to park in. These UV heat shields will keep the interior from getting super-hot, plus it protects your interior from the damaging effects of the sun. You might even consider getting custom-made window shades that are designed to fit your make and model of car. These sun shades can be more effective at keeping all of the rays out.
What Causes A Car To Overheat
Why is my car overheating? You might ask. There are a few engine problems that can cause a car to run hot. Hot temperatures alone might not be causing your vehicle to overheat. If your cars cooling systems arent functioning correctly, it can lead to serious damage to your engine and expensive repairs. Here are a few car overheating causes:
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Top Off The Engine Coolant
Once your engine has had a chance to cool down, check the engine coolant levels. If your coolant level is low and you dont have any obvious coolant leaks or blown hoses, you can try adding additional coolant. We cant say it enough be careful. An overheating engine is going to be hot even after youve let it sit for 15 minutes.
Start by wearing gloves and goggles, too, if you have them, and finding a towel or thick rag. Place the towel over the radiator cap and give it a quarter turn. You want to release the pressure slowly rather than all at once, which could send hot coolant spewing into the air.
Once the cap is safely off, slowly add coolant and water in a 50/50 mix until it reaches the fill line. Replace the cap and then turn on your car. If the car overheating lights go off and the temperature gauge goes down, you can drive to a service station, but be sure to keep an eye on that temperature gauge.
Common Causes Of Overheating Coolant System
Ive been a mechanic for over twenty years and heres a list of the most common causes of an overheating engine. Some are really simple inexpensive repairs that could easily be nailed by the owner, and some are definitely a job for a trained mechanic.
Check out the tools I use to troubleshoot overheating issues on the Coolant system tools page.
Ive listed all the easy to solve, low hanging fruit first.
- Low coolant level
- Blown radiator radiator fan fuse
- Air locked coolant system
- Head gasket failure
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Dont Immediately Pop The Hood When The Car Is Overheating
Popping the hood will improve the flow of cooler air to your engine, but it could also be dangerous. The hood and latch may be extremely hot and may burn your hands. If you notice steam escaping under the hood, you risk that steam or even boiling coolant spraying out and causing burns.
Wait for at least 15 minutes for the engine and engine bay to cool down a bit before you open the hood. Even then, do so cautiously. If you have protective gear like gloves or goggles in your trunk, nows the time to put them to good use.
What Causes An Engine To Overheat
A typical car engine operates at temperatures that range from 195°F to 220°F. When it does so, the engine maintains proper emissions control, along with reliable performance and good fuel economy. Yet, an engines cooling system can sometimes malfunction, which can cause the engine to overheat.
Your car engines cooling system features a coolant that consists of a 50/50 mix of water and ethylene glycol antifreeze. The systems coolant typically boils at 225°F, unless it remains under the pressure of a radiator cap.
A 15 PSI radiator cap ups the boiling temperature of the coolant to about 265°F. If the coolant mixture consists of 70% antifreeze and 30% water, i.e. the maximum recommended level, its boiling temperature can rise to 276°F with a 15 PSI radiator cap in place.
However, if your engines cooling system cannot properly absorb, transport, and dissipate heat, the engine can overheat. Any of these problems can occur for a number of reasons, such as:
- Low coolant level
- Poor airflow from the radiator
- Malfunctioning electric cooling fan
- Defective radiator cap
You need to address an overheating engine as quickly as possible. To do so, you must first be able to identify the warning signs of an engine that is overheating.
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What Do I Do When My Car Overheats
As the brilliant Douglas Adams once wrote in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Dont Panic.
Your car overheating shouldnt propel you into a frenzied fluster, that will only make you nuts and wont solve the underlying problem. Stay calm and pull over to the side of the road. If your A/C is on, turn it off. If you cant pull over and stop the car, turn on the heater, as it will draw in the warm air from the engine and dispel it into the cabin. We suggest rolling down the windows at this point so you dont overheat yourself.
Once youre in a safe location, pop the cars hood and allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes. You can then do a visual inspection of the engine bay to see if the overheating issue was caused by a bad hose, loss of coolant pressure, leaky radiator, or bad fan. If you can repair one of those issues with what you have in the car, do so and head to a mechanics to have it properly repaired. If you cant, youll likely be calling a tow truck.;
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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How Do I Know If My Engine Is Overheating
Your best bet to deal with permanent damage from your engine overheating is to know the signs and to lower the temperature before it happens. Prevention if better than the cure, especially in this situation. Here are some symptoms of an overheating engine:
- White smoke, steam actually, billowing out from under the hood of your vehicle.
- If your vehicle has a temperature gauge on the dashboard and it spikes into the red or to H then that is a sure sign that your vehicle too hot.
- If you smell a strange sweet or burning smell coming from the engine area, possibly caused by leaking coolant or oil respectively.
If you notice any of these symptoms, either pull over and stop your vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so or bring your vehicle in to the nearest AAMCO repair shop. Call your local AAMCO service center for towing options available.
Thermostat Is Stuck Shut
The most common symptom of a failed thermostat is overheating at highway speeds. Your engine may be able to stay cool at low speeds because it’s not working that hard, and therefore not creating as much heat. When you hit highway speeds, however, your engine needs a lot of coolant flowing through to keep it cool.
If the thermostat doesn’t open, there isn’t enough flow to keep things cool. In this situation, you may find yourself looking more like a steamship than a sedan going down the highway.
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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.
Signs Your Engine Is Overheating
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, you’ve 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.
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Get Back On The Road With Roadside Service Coverage
If you do get stuck on the side of the road, its good to know youll have help if you need it.
Emergency Roadside Service coverage from ERIE can help with mechanical breakdowns as well as lockouts, flat tires, or dead batteries. It can even save the day when your car runs out of gas.
Better yet? Adding Emergency Roadside Service coverage to your ERIE auto insurance policy only costs about $5 per vehicle per year1 and its available with the purchase of either comprehensive or collision coverage.
You can also purchase the coverage with ERIEs Roadside & Rentals bundle, which includes rental car expense coverage2.
What To Do If Your Engine Overheats
- TLC Auto & Truck Repair Service Center
A fully functional vehicle is a collection of parts and systems that work in tandem to produce the driving movement were so thankful for.
Some of these parts are more critical than others in the grand scheme of things. You wouldnt rate the paint job of a vehicle as high as a suspension system, would you?
One of the top dogs in a vehicle is its engine. The engine is a powerhouse. Several components here must work efficiently to power a full vehicle. They do so much work that its often just a waiting game before they break down, especially without regular maintenance.
A common issue here is overheating.
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What To Do When Your Car Overheats
A carefree family hops in the car, excited for a weekend at the beach. After a few hours on the road, disaster strikes. The engine starts smoking, and the family has to pull over. What will happen next?!
Seems like no summer horror movie is complete without this iconic scene, but its certainly not something you want to reenact on your next road trip! Make sure youre prepared if disaster strikes and learn what to do when your car engine overheats.
Stand Clear To Rear Of Car
Consider moving yourself and any passengers away from the stranded car. If your car has broken down: at dangerous junction; apex of a corner; brow of a hill; on a fast moving road; visibility is poor; road surface wet or icy etc.
Moving to a position 200 yards or so to the rear of the vehicle while waiting for the engine to cool will help prevent injury should an oncoming car strike your stranded vehicle.
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Q: Please Dont Say Its A Head Gasket
A: Sorry to burst your bubble, but it might be. Here are a few symptoms of a blown head gasket, pay close attention to the last one.;
If a head gasket blows, even slightly, the engine might overheat and damage several components. One thing you should never do when your car is overheating: Remove the radiator cap and check the coolant. Thats how you punch a one-way ticket to the ER for a scalded face.
If you notice milky colors in your oil, you might have a blown gasketthe underside of your cars oil reservoir cap will likely become splattered with the milky oil. This happens when coolant comes in contact with and contaminates the oil.;
Bubbling Inside Radiator;
If you notice bubbling inside the radiator or coolant reservoir, its an indication your system has air in it, which could be caused by a leaking or blown head gasket.
Turn The Floor Air Vents On
Most people get in the car and turn the dash board are vents on high to get the air flowing. But youre actually better off directing the air through the floor vents. Hot air rises, so switch to the bottom vents and put your blower on the maximum setting to push that air out. Then, once the car begins cooling, you can open the upper vents again.
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What To Do When Car Overheats And Wont Start
- Turn off the engine and park under a shade.
- Leave the engine hood open.
- Open the windows.
- Add water and coolant to the radiator.
- Disable air conditioning.
- After 20 minutes, try revving the engine mildly.
The car should now start. However, if the car does not start, inform the mechanic or wait a little longer and try revving the engine again.
Reason #: Your Radiator Fans Aren’t Working
If your car operates at a safe temperature as you drive along, but the temperature creeps up toward the danger zone when sitting still, that tells us that your cooling fans likely have a problem.
The radiator exchanges heat with the outside air that passes over it. As your car drives along, air passes through the front grille and across the radiator, lowering the temperature of the coolant inside so the engine stays cool. When the vehicle is stopped, cooling fans will automatically engage to keep air flowing across the radiator. If there’s a problem with your vehicle’s cooling fans, and they don’t turn on when the vehicle is stopped, it can begin to overheat until you start moving again. You may have an electrical problem that’s keeping the fans from turning on, or the fan motor itself could’ve gone bad. Let our experts take a close look and get your cooling fans working right again!
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If You Need To Continue Driving
This should lower the engines temperature but make sure to keep a close eye on the engine temperature gauge once youre back on the road. If you see the engines temperature start to creep up while driving, youll need to pull over again and refill the radiator with either coolant or water. This is not a long-term solution, but rather a temporary fix. If this is the problem youre facing, youll want to have a mechanic fix the issue as soon as possible.