Car Overheating: What to Do?

  • by: Patrick Peterson
  • June 16, 2020

An overheating car is a common me chanical issue for vehicles. If you have dealt with an unusual smell in your car, observed a steam/smoke emerging from under your vehicle’s hood, or seen the needle of your car’s temperature gauge jump up suddenly past the normal limit, your car was likely overheating. Overheating can cause permanent damage to your car, especially if the period of overheating is prolonged. Familiarizing yourself with the causes of vehicles overheating and understanding important actions that can help in that situation can help you take better care of your car.
overheating car

Why Is My Car Overheating?

A vehicle’s cooling system can struggle for a number of reasons:

  • Cooling System Leaking 

This is the most common reason a car overheats, and if you have a leak in your cooling system, you must address it right away or you risk your car overheating.

  • Failing Thermostat

If your vehicle’s thermostat is having issues, your car is likely to overheat. Look for signs like the temperature gauge reading very high and take steps to repair it right away.

  • Coolant Concentration  

If this ratio is outside the specified for your vehicle, you run the risk of overheating.

  • Loose or Broken Belts

Over time, belts in your car can break or loosen. Belt speed inconsistencies cause inadequate coolant flow, and this too causes overheating.

  • Bad Radiator or a Broken Radiator Fan  

If your car’s radiator or its fan breaks, overheating is very likely. If you observe signs of overheating, leaking of coolant, low coolant levels and / or a build-up of sludge in your radiator, spend some time repairing or replacing your radiator.

  • Burst or Worn Out Hoses  

It's another issue that can lead to a vehicle overheating.

  • Bad Water Pump

Driving a car that has a bad water pump is not recommended because it’s likely to overheat.

If you are experiencing overheating, checking into some or all of the factors listed above can help you diagnose why the issue is occurring.

What to Do When Your Car Is Overheating?

If you find yourself in a situation where your car is overheating, there are a few important do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:

  • Pullover and turn off your engine

Driving an overheating car can cause considerable damage to your engine, and the harm caused could be permanent. Find a safe place to pull over as soon as you see signs of overheating, and turn off your car.

  • Turn up the heat

Turning the heat on fully can help disperse the heat coming from your engine. This sounds paradoxical, but it is definitely worth trying when troubleshooting an overheating vehicle.

  • Open the hood to let the heat escape

Opening the hood lets excess heat escape through ventilation. Make sure to never touch the engine with your bare hands to avoid injury. Also, stay back as the heat escapes.

  • Be on the lookout for leaks 

Looking at the radiator and hoses can help you spot where coolant might be leaking.

  • Add coolant

If you don’t spot a leak, you may be low on coolant. Checking your coolant levels involves removing the radiator cap. This should only be attempted once the engine has cooled off, using a towel to remove the cap. Coolant should reach the top of the radiator. If it doesn’t, pour in additional coolant.
overheating car

What Not to Do If The Car Is Overheating?

  • Don’t Keep Driving

It is vital that you pull over and turn the car off to avoid serious damage to your vehicle.

  • Don’t Panic

Overheating can seem very scary, especially if it is catching the driver by surprise. Take a deep breath and remember that most underlying issues are completely fixable.

  • Don’t open the hood too quickly

After you turn your car off, give the vehicle a bit of time to cool off the engine before opening the hood. Opening the hood will result in a lot of steam, so be prepared and stand back to avoid injury.

  • Don’t ignore the issue

After you get the issue under control enough where you can comfortably drive the car again, make sure you take the time to address the cause of the overheating fully. This might mean going to a mechanic, or taking the time to fix it yourself. If this is not done, you run the risk of another overheating incident on the road that can result to damage to your vehicle and risk of injury to you.

How to Stop a Car from Overheating

There are a number of ways to seek help for an overheating vehicle. If you prefer to repair your car yourself, take the time to consult auto repair articles and videos that help you better identify the root cause of the problem, and take steps to fix it. If you are not that hands-on, utilize the help of a trusted mechanic. If you are able to cool your car down and start it again with no issues during an overheating incident, don’t wait long before scheduling an appointment with a mechanic to ensure all related issues are remedied. If you cannot contain the overheating, call a tow truck and ask that your vehicle is towed to a mechanic.

How to Prevent Car from Overheating

There are a number of preventative measures you can utilize to prevent overheating and to be better prepared should it happen anyway. Checking for leaks and repairing them proactively can help prevent overheating, as can regularly checking your coolant levels, and utilizing the right ratio of antifreeze and water. Make sure you have distilled water and coolant in your car’s emergency kit, and watch your temperature gauge for unexpected creeping up. Parking in the shade, leaving windows slightly open and not overworking your car’s A/C can also help prevent overheating.

With some knowledge and basic auto care items, you can react to overheating smoothly, or even help prevent it. Overheating is a common and treatable automobile issue, but addressing it right away can protect your car.