Car Engine Overheats? What To Do.
Who wouldn’t be frustrated and scared to see smoke coming from under the hood as they’re out on a summer drive? Overheating engines can and do happen, and the damage can be permanent if the right precautions and actions aren’t taken. Engines that run too hot can cause damage and ruin your journey.
A variety of things can cause the overheat warning light to glow. Ideally, you should aim for preventing the engine from overheating before it becomes too dangerous and causes expensive damage. During your regular car maintenance procedures, professional technicians can easily detect coolant levels, leakage, signs of a faulty water pump and many other symptoms that could be good indicators of engine overheating. Such a regular car maintenance schedule is an opportunity to fix small problems before they get bigger. Proper care of your cooling system, regular check on all fluid levels, inspecting your brakes, battery, shocks and filters by a qualified auto technician is a great way to prevent dangerous overheating. Also, the most important thing to do is to see your owner’s manual. Typically, the overheating section in your owner’s manual should outline the exact directions to follow in the event of an overheated engine. And if you are unable to follow then why not visit or your favorite car technician for tips on maintenance of the cooling system in your vehicle. Here’s what you should generally know as a responsible vehicle owner:
- Recognize an engine overheating
Be sure how and when your vehicle will communicate to you if its engine overheats. Engine overheating is a serious condition. All modern cars today have the ability to communicate with you the status of the critical systems. Engine temperature warning is one such important warning light on your dashboard that should never be ignored. Take a note of these specific indicators and warning light icons used by your vehicle
2. Get to know why car engines overheat
There are several common causes such as leaking coolant, low coolant level, faulty water pump, radiator failure, low coolant level and issues with electronics, but many others may also be possible.
What Are The Symptoms Of Engine Overheating?
- The temperature gauge
The temperature gauge is located on the dashboard of your car. Normally, the needle has to point towards the bottom in the black area. If you notice the needle rise up towards the top or in the red area, it’s an indication of high engine temperature.
- Hot hood or steam coming out of the hood
If the coolant reaches beyond the boiling point, it moves out of the hood in the form of steam. This is a good indicator of an overheated engine and in this case the engine has to be shut off immediately.
- Distinctive smell
If the temperature rises, various materials like plastic, rubber, resin, etc. which hold the engine together begin to melt emitting an unusual odor. Leaking coolant may also fill your car with an odor that smells sweet. This is toxic too and hence, should not be ignored.
- Coolant leaking on the ground
Coolant leaking on the ground could be an indication of engine overheating. There are two reasons for this:
- Leakage in the cooling system leaving less coolant to cool the engine
- Boiling coolant released by the overflow tank to relieve the high pressure
- Ticking noise
Engine oil is meant to lubricate the moving parts. When oil overheats it becomes thin and acts like water instead of oil. As the moving metal parts make contact with each other you will hear a noticeable ticking noise.
- Reduced engine power
When the engine overheats it loses its power to run the car at the expected speed. On noticing this behavior, you must become vigilant of unusual smells, smoke, leakages and temperature warning signs and pull your vehicle to a safe area.
What to Do When Your Engine Overheats?
Below are some general steps of how to fix overheating car engine temporarily before you get professional assistance. But note, instructions in your owner’s manual predominate these.
- Quickly activate the hazard lights after the warning light appears and check your surroundings to find the best way to get off the road and out of traffic immediately.
- Turn off the air-conditioner and turn on the heater and the blowers. Turning the heater on might seem the last thing you want to do on a summer day. But, the heater draws heat from the engine to operate. So, when turned on it sucks the hot air out of the engine bay, cooling the engine.
- Try coasting to the side of the road in neutral if it’s safe to do so. This decreases the speed of your engine, reducing its temperature.
- Now, when you have reached a safe spot at the roadside, leave your hazards light turned on, park the vehicle and switch off the engine. It will take some time to cool the engine down before it’s safe to open your hood.
- Once your hood is cool to touch, open it to let the steam and excess heat move out further more. Do not open the radiator cap while your engine is still hot as you could severely scald yourself. Use this time to get the phone number of your nearest car maintenance service center, you might require expert help.
- Once your engine has cooled down completely use a thick towel or rag to slowly open the radiator. Keep your face out of the way to avoid possible splutter of steam or hot water. After carefully opening the radiator cap, add the coolant until it reaches the full line. The engine prefers a 50-50 mix of anti-freeze and water. Coolant also needs to be added to an appropriate level to the coolant reservoir that is located close to the radiator.
- Give it a few more minutes to continue cooling and put the cap back on the radiator. Turn on the engine and check if the temperature gauge comes back to normal.
- Once you feel it safe to drive, head straight to the nearest service center for further investigation.
Running an engine which has overheating issues is not advisable. Adding some coolant might seem to have resolved the problem but it is recommended to check the root cause. If you do not know your way around under the hood of your car, consider taking your car to the nearest car service center for professional assessment.