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What to Do When Your Car Overheats

What to Do When Car OverheatsLetting your car completely overheat is the quickest way to find yourself stranded on the side of the road and in need of a new car. Unless you want to waste money (and who does?), it’s important to notice the warning signs that your car is about to overheat before it’s too late. Even when you’re in tune with your vehicle, an engine can overheat at a moment’s notice. Causes can include scorching heat outside, driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic for miles or hours at a time, or other engine-related problems. Overheating can even happen in cool weather. Here’s what to keep an eye out for.

Engine Temperature and Dashboard Warning Lights

Become familiar with the temperature gauge on your dashboard. Know what’s normal for your vehicle’s running engine temperature. If the gauge moves into the red zone or if a warning light comes on that says something like “engine hot” or “check engine,” take it seriously. When your check engine light comes on, it could be for many different reasons, but if it’s because of overheating, it’s important to address the issue right away to prevent engine damage.

Smoke under the Hood

A steady billow of steam coming from under your vehicle’s hood as you sit at a stoplight is a sign of a potentially serious problem. Smoke can have many causes. A leaking hose or radiator, a broken fan belt, a busted water pump — these all can happen out of nowhere. But no matter what the cause is, smoke means it’s crucial to pull over and make sure the engine doesn’t get any hotter.

Hoses, Thermostats and Other Parts

Malfunctioning parts in your engine can also cause it to overheat. Regular maintenance is a simple way to prevent problems. Checking hoses, thermostats and belts on a regularly scheduled basis costs much less than a new car or pricy repairs.

What to Do if the Engine Overheats

Other than pulling over and wishing your car wasn’t actually overheating, what else can you do if it does?

  1. Disperse the heat. If you have to keep driving, roll down your windows and turn your heater all the way up. This takes some of the engine’s heat and disperses it, slowing the overheating problem. Hopefully, this will help you get to a place where you can pull over safely.
  2. Make room. If you’re stuck in stop-and-go traffic, try to keep extra space between you and the car in front of you, so you can avoid stopping. Repeatedly applying the brakes adds to the overall heat the car experiences.
  3. Lift the Hood Carefully. If you’re able to pull over, pop the hood with the lever inside the car. Don’t try to do it manually because you could burn yourself. Once you’ve popped the hood, the engine will cool down faster.
  4. Wait. After lifting the hood, wait at least 30 minutes to do anything else. It can take some time for a hot engine to cool down. Don’t remove the radiator cap, especially if you’re seeing steam come from the engine. If you haven’t already called for help, this is the time to do it.
  5. Check the radiator for leaks. If the engine has cooled and there’s no more steam coming from under the hood, you can check for a radiator leak. Look for a puddle forming under the vehicle. Grab a cloth to protect your hand when opening your radiator, and look away from it when you open it, just in case there’s still a lot of pressure built up.
  6. Add antifreeze and water, with caution. Don’t just start adding cold water to the radiator or coolant tank because it can do a lot of damage to an overheated engine. Engines need a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water. If you don’t already have both water and antifreeze on hand, don’t attempt to do anything. If you have both on hand, make sure you’re using a 50/50 mix before pouring it in.
  7. Call for a tow truck. If there’s plenty of coolant in the tank, you could have an electrical or mechanical problem. Unless you’ve got the tools and the experience to check otherwise, a tow truck is probably your best option.

See an Expert for Repairs

The Garage Auto Repair in Broken Arrow can provide a preventative check of your car’s cooling system to prevent overheating problems. And if your car does overheat, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re just a call away, and no appointment is necessary.