Overheating Engine: Why It Happens and What to Do if Your Car Is Overheating
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.
Goodyear Auto Service is here to help you understand why engines overheat, plus, possible actions to take if your vehicle begins overheating while you’re driving.
The Bottom Line
What does a cooling system do?
What happens when an engine overheats?
Today’s engines are typically built to be durable, but when heat generated by a vehicle’s motor is well above the normal operating temperature, the devices made to cool this heat distribution may begin to fail, potentially causing permanent damage to not only the engine, but also the gaskets, hoses and seals that are designed to keep the engine running.
There are a variety of reasons that a vehicle can overheat, such as cooling system leaks, blocked hoses from corrosion and mineral deposits, radiator issues or broken water pumps. Regular inspections may help avoid overheating issues down the road.
What to do if your vehicle begins overheating.
- 1. Pull over and assess the situation
- 2. Keep moving only if necessary
- 3. Turn on the heat
- 4. Open all the windows
- 5. Call for assistance
Do not try to open the hood of your car until the vehicle has cooled down
Once the vehicle is at a complete stop and turned off, do not lift the hood. Depending on how long the vehicle has been running, the coolant in the vehicle could be increasing in temperature to an extremely hot level, and essentially pressurizing in the cooling system itself. Only once the vehicle has completely cooled down will it be suitable to attempt to open the hood. The vehicle should be allowed to cool down naturally before opening the hood.
To confirm that the vehicle has appropriately cooled down, monitor the temperature gauge in your vehicle as it moves from HOT to COOL, which may take upwards of 30 minutes. Depending upon the vehicle you drive, the temperature gauge may only be functional when the ignition is in the “accessory” or “on” position. During this step, it’s important to not start the engine, and in this situation, only activate the ignition to the “on” position to read the temperature gauge.
Common reasons for overheating engines
There are a variety of reasons why a vehicle’s engine can overheat. Certain examples may be quicker fixes, such as refilling your antifreeze, but other issues may be more permanent if not properly taken care of by a professional.
Below are common factors that can cause a car to overheat:
- 1. Too little or no coolant
- 2. Cooling system leaks
An empty coolant reservoir tank could be caused by a potential leak. Leaks in the coolant can often be identified by spots or puddles on the ground.
Be aware that coolant will have a sweet smell and may be green, blue or orange in color depending on the type of coolant being used.
- 3. A broken water pump
- 4. Radiator issues
- 5. Oil too low
- 6. Thermostat failure
- 7. Issues with the belts and hoses
- 8. Heater core is plugged up
Tips to prevent a car from overheating
Remembering a few quick tips as you drive can help to alleviate permanent engine damage down the road.
- Check your vehicle’s coolant levels on a consistent basis
- Store an extra bottle of new antifreeze and a gallon of water in your trunk
- Monitor your car’s thermostat as you’re driving
- Do not overuse the car’s air conditioning on extremely hot days
- Help cool the engine by running the heat at the first sign of overheating
- Refer to the vehicle owner’s manual to stay up-to-date on coolant service flushes
An overheating engine is a sign of a serious issue. Regular maintenance checks will help identify problems early on, before causing permanent damage to your vehicle. If you have questions regarding your coolant and cooling systems, we’re available to help you at your local Goodyear Auto Service location.