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What To Do When Your Car Overheats

It’s finally summer, and many of us are looking forward to a road trip, or driving to the airport for a well-earned holiday. But while we may be enjoying the sunshine, our cars aren’t as well-adapted to the heat. As the temperatures rise, your car may be more vulnerable to faults, such as a weak battery, burst tyres and, of course, your engine overheating.

An overheated engine can be caused by simple issues, such as low coolant levels or circulation problems, but it can also be a symptom of more serious mechanical faults. As such, if your engine overheats you should always get it checked by a professional.

In this article, we will address the causes and risks of an overheated engine, discuss how to prevent your engine from overheating, and outline the steps you should take if your engine overheats.


The Causes Of Overheating

There are several reasons why your engine may overheat, including:

  • Leaked coolant
  • Problems with the radiator fan
  • Faulty water pump
  • Low levels of engine oil
  • Failed thermostat


The Risks Of Overheating

Your engine overheating can cause serious problems for drivers – not only can it damage your engine (sometimes permanently), but in severe cases, it could even put your own safety at risk.

For instance, overheating can cause your engine to catch fire, due to the leaked oil becoming ignited. In this situation, drivers must remain calm, quickly pull over and exit their vehicle, before alerting the emergency services.

An overheated engine can cause several other risks to drivers and their vehicles, including:

  • Fire
  • Burst hoses
  • Warped cylinder heads
  • Blown head gasket


How To Prevent Your Engine Overheating

  • Regular Oil Changes – Regularly changing your oil is essential for ensuring your engine remains in good condition. It helps prevent overheating and ensures essential components are properly lubricated and cooled.
  • Cooling System Check-Up – Have your cooling system inspected regularly, especially if you’ve had past issues. This includes the radiator, coolant levels, pumps, and hoses. Routine servicing can prevent breakdowns.
  • Park In The Shade – Whenever possible, park your car in shaded areas to avoid excessive heat buildup. You can also use window shades or crack the windows slightly to keep the interior cooler.
  • Use The A/C Sparingly – Use your air conditioning smartly. Start with the fresh air setting and direct airflow through the floor vents first to release hot air. If you are concerned that your car may be overheating, or at risk of overheating, turn off the A/C and use the heater briefly.
  • Monitor Temperature – Keep an eye on your vehicle’s temperature gauge. If it starts creeping into the red zone, pull over and let the engine cool down completely. Persistent issues should be checked by a professional.
  • Check Coolant Levels – When the engine is cool, check the coolant level and quality. Top it up with coolant or water if needed. Consult an automotive professional immediately if you experience any leaks.
  • Replace Ageing Components – Consider replacing your car battery if it’s over three years old, as weak batteries can strain the engine and contribute to overheating.


What To Do If Your Engine Overheats

If your car is overheating, you may notice your temperature warning light has lit up, or there may be steam or smoke coming from your engine. You should immediately pull over, turn off the engine, tell any passengers to get out, and keep a safe distance from the vehicle.

When you are sure it is safe to approach the vehicle, open the bonnet from inside the car if possible. Otherwise, open the bonnet using a pair of gloves to protect your hands. Leave the bonnet open to cool the engine for at least 30 minutes.

Do not remove the radiator cap or expansion tank cap – you may get serious burns from leaked steam if you attempt this. If you must open the cap, wait for the engine to cool fully and open it slowly with your hands covered to prevent burns.

When the engine is cool, check your coolant levels. If it’s empty, you may have experienced a leak – this will be evident if there is a puddle under the body of your car. Top up your coolant tank with coolant or coolant and warm water if required.

If your coolant is full, this may indicate that there is another mechanical issue with your engine, which should always be inspected by an automotive professional.

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