Keep your cool
You’ve been waiting all winter for the warm temperatures that summer brings. While you love to bask in the sun, your car’s engine doesn’t appreciate the heat. Excessive heat can cause your engine to overheat, halting those vacation plans and landing your vehicle in the repair shop.
Don’t wait for the temperature warning light to come on. Read on to learn what can cause your engine to overheat, what to do if it happens to you, and what steps you can take to ensure that your engine keeps its cool all summer long.
Like most mechanical engines, your vehicle has an optimal temperature range where it performs its best. If the engine temperature hits either extreme – too hot or too cold – it can lead to problems. If your engine temperature rises above the optimum level, it can overheat.
While driving in hot weather is a common cause of engine overheating, it’s not the only factor. Low water and/or coolant level or a cooling system leak are other reasons that your car engine can overheat. You may also be experiencing a failing water pump or thermostat.
Whatever the cause, it is imperative that you find the source of the overheating and get it fixed. The first symptoms you are likely to notice are either steam coming out from under the hood or your temperature gauge steadily climbing from its normal level. If this happens to you while you are driving, it is important to know what steps you should take.
How to handle engine overheating
If you are driving and your engine begins to overheat, take the following steps:
Top off the coolant with antifreeze or water
Many times this will cool things off so you can get to your destination. Keep in mind this could be a temporary fix, so keep an eye on your engine. Note – Because it contains hot water under pressure, be careful when removing the radiator cap.
Turn off the air conditioning
This reduces the strain on your engine and can help it get regulated.
Crank the heater and fan up to full blast
This sounds counterintuitive but doing this transfers the heat away from your engine, giving it a chance to breathe.
Lay off the brakes
If you’re in traffic, try to stay off the brake pedal. Constantly hitting your brakes just turns up the heat.
Rev it up
If you’re sitting in traffic or at a stoplight, put the car in park or neutral and rev the engine. This gets air and water moving through the radiator.
If the temperature gauge continues to rise, it’s time to pull over and call a tow truck to avoid further damage to your engine. Pop the hood from inside the car and let the engine cool for at least 30 minutes before touching anything. Have your vehicle towed to your mechanic for repairs.
Dangers of driving with an overheated engine
If your engine doesn’t cool off, it is crucial that you stop driving and get your vehicle towed to your mechanic for repairs. Continuing to drive with an overheated engine can have dire consequences. You risk a costly head gasket repair or even a seized motor.
As the old saying goes, prevention really is the best medicine. To avoid being stranded on the side of the road, take steps to prevent your engine from overheating.
As part of your emergency road kit, be sure to carry coolant and distilled water.
Check coolant level
Get in the habit of checking your coolant/antifreeze level on a regular basis. Be sure to use the right mixture of antifreeze and water.
Watch your temperature gauge
While driving, keep an eye on your temperature gauge. If it begins to creep up, you’ll be in the right position to employ the steps outlined above to get your engine cooled off.
Get leaks fixed
If you notice any antifreeze leaks, have your mechanic fix the source of the problems right away.
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