How Do You Cool An Overheated Car?

July 8th, 2021 by

Few problems for a car or truck can escalate as quickly as an overheating engine. A vehicle can go from operating with no signs of trouble to severe danger in just minutes. It’s important to understand how to respond when your car overheats so you can protect it and avoid costly repairs.

How Do You Cool Down an Overheated Car?

Image of car dashboard showing overheating

Image via Flickr by Rafael Marquez Photography

When owning a car, it’s important to understand how to respond in the event of an overheating engine before you first encounter it. The failure to adequately address the concern can lead to significant damage to your engine. If you want to protect your vehicle in the event of an overheating engine, follow these six steps:

  1. Stop driving immediately. An overheating engine is a serious condition that can lead to expensive damage if not properly addressed. As soon as you notice that your temperature reading is high or that there is smoke coming out of your hood, pull over to the side of the road at the first safe opportunity. After pulling over, turn off your engine to prevent your car from generating more heat.
  2. Check for warning signs. Once you have safely pulled over and turned off your engine, get out of the vehicle, and move up to the front of the car. Look for signs that the engine is producing unsafe levels of heat, such as steam or smoke coming out from underneath the hood. If you see these signs, step away from the vehicle, and call for emergency services.
  3. Open the hood. If your vehicle is not showing signs of dangerous heat levels, you can safely attempt to pop your hood. Remain alert during this step as you may still discover unsafe conditions such as leaking or spraying fluids when you open the hood. Popping your hood increases airflow to the engine and allows hot air to escape. This helps your engine cool down more quickly.
  4. Check the radiator hose. Increased temperatures within your engine compartment can lead to raised pressure in your radiator system. To determine that it is safe to check your levels, it’s important to first check the pressure in your radiator hose. Squeeze it gently to determine if it gives way or not. If the hose feels firm, pressure levels are high, and you should not remove your radiator cap because it can lead to spraying of hot liquid when you do.
  5. Refill the coolant. If you can squeeze the hose without excessive pressure, it is safe to check your coolant levels. Unscrew the cap on your coolant reservoir and examine coolant levels within. If you discover you are low or out of coolant, this is likely the cause of your overheating. Refill up to the fill line if you have access to coolant or call a friend or towing professional if you do not.
  6. Get your car checked out. It is important to have your car looked at by a professional after experiencing overheating. If you can successfully lower your car’s temperature, you may be able to drive to a service station. While driving to a service station, pay careful attention to your temperature gauge; stop immediately if your car begins to overheat again. If you cannot lower your temperature, or temperatures rise quickly once you restart the car, you will need to call a tow truck to safely transport your car to your service station.

Why Is My Car Overheating?

Many causes can contribute to an overheating engine. While some causes are more common, it’s important to know all the potential reasons why your car may overheat. The most likely reasons an engine is overheating are:

You’re Out of Coolant

The most common cause of an overheating engine is a lack of coolant. This may result from a leak in your reservoir, which causes your coolant to drain. Alternatively, if you neglect regular car maintenance to monitor fluid levels, you will end up exhausting the reservoir. Refilling your reservoir can allow you to regulate your temperature. However, if there is a leak, this only provides a temporary solution to allow you to get your car in for servicing.

There Is a Leak in the Lines

Another common cause of overheating engines is leaking lines in the system. This prevents your car from delivering enough coolant to the radiator, which results in insufficient performance and increased temperatures. Leaks require professional service to repair and avoid future overheating issues.

Debris Is in the System

When operating your car there’s the potential for dirt and other debris to get into the lines. This leads to a clog, which can prevent the radiator from functioning properly. This, in turn, will cause your car to overheat. An inspection at a service station can identify clogging issues and repair them to prevent further issues.

Your Car Has a Thermostat Failure

Your car’s thermostat regulates the temperature within the vehicle. If your thermostat is malfunctioning, it is incapable of correctly identifying when there are issues related to temperature regulation. When this happens, your car’s thermostat will fail to engage cooling systems when needed, and your engine will overheat.

There Is a Cooling Fan Malfunction

Your cooling fan delivers cool air to the engine to prevent it from overheating. If there is a malfunction with your cooling fan, it may not be effectively blowing air, which prevents the engine from receiving the cooling help that it requires.

You Have a Blocked or Damaged Radiator

If your radiator has become blocked or gotten damaged, it will no longer be capable of effectively cooling your engine. Radiator damage requires professional attention.

Protecting your car against overheating is one of the most cost-effective forms of car maintenance you can do. The experts at Applegate Chevrolet understand the importance of protecting your engine, and our service professionals can assist you when you’re experiencing overheating. Bring your car in to see us today, or get in touch with us to schedule regular maintenance. Prevent a small problem from becoming a big one.

Posted in How-to guides