What To Do If Your Engine Overheats
Posted on July 31, 2020
What you can do to prevent your vehicle from overheating?
Despite being the number one cause of breakdowns, overheating is easily avoidable. Here is how to avoid getting stuck:
- Check your coolant every month (more often if you are on a road trip)
- Check your hoses for unusual cracks or bulges each month
- keep to your maintenance schedule, as it includes regular belt and hose inspections, cooling system flushes, ect.
- Before you undertake any extended journeys or road trips, ask your service specialist for a vehicle checkup
- Refer to the vehicles Owners Manual for more specific information
'The greatest cause of summer-breakdowns is overheating." -Federal Consumer Information Center.
Summer temperatures mean your cooling system has to work much harder to keep your engine from overheating.( yes, your engine can overheat in winter too.) Here's how to recognize if your engine is overheating:
- Temperature gauge is high
- Temperature light is on
- Steam is coming form under the hood
- Unusual noise and a sudden loss of power
There are two ways to deal with overheating. If there is no outpouring of steam and you still have power, your engine might just need some fast heat relief.
1. Turn the heater on.
It sounds strange, but turning off the AC and turning on the heater to its highest setting diverts the heat away from the engine. Be sure to roll the windows down to allow the hot air to escape!
2. Increase your distance from the vehicle ahead.
By blocking the flow of air, the exhaust from the vehicle in front will reduce the ability of your vehicle to dissipate heat. Increase the distance between you and the car ahead. If the temperature gauge and the temperature light respond, you may be able to proceed with caution.
3. Pull off the road
If the temperature gauges have not responded, you should find a safe spot to pull off the road. Turn off the engine and give it time to cool down. This may take a considerable amount of time. Lift your hood. It will allow the engine to cool faster and also provide a warning for oncoming drivers.
4. Check the coolant
After the engine has cooled, open the hood and check the coolant. You can see the level through the transparent reservoir near the radiator. If the level is below the ADD or MIN level, top off with coolant, water or ideally, a 50/50 mixture of both. You should be able to continue your journey.
If the coolant level is within the correct range, you may have another problem such as broken thermostat or temperature gauge, a leaky hose, a radiator leak, or slipping water pump drive belts. Contact your service specialist or roadside assistance.
However, if there is steam coming from your engine or you are losing power, your overheating situation is much more critical. Here's what to do:
1. Pull off road. NOW!
At this point your engine is generating enough heat to cause permanent damage, so pull off the road right away or as soon as it is safe to do so. Turn the car off, lift the hood and wait until the engine cools down. As mentioned earlier, this will take a considerable amount of time. Never attempt to open the radiator cap on a hot engine to avoid the possibility of severe burning.
2. Check the coolant
After the engine has cooled, check the coolant level in the transparent reservoir and top off if it is low or empty.
3. Check the hoses
If you can see a leak in the cooling hoses, you may be able to temporarily fix it with duct tape or electrical tape.
4. Check water pump drive belt
- Never touch a moving drive belt
- Belts should be inspected for proper tension and evidence of cuts. Cracks or glazing, and replaced if there is indication of damage which could result in belt failure
- If adjustment is required, see your authorized dealer for service
5. Drive to repair shop or call roadside assistance
The above steps may have bought you enough time to drive to your dealership, or you may prefer to call for roadside assistance.
The cause of the overheating could be minor, such as a burst hose, or it could be more significant, such as a damaged radiator or an internal engine problem.