You’re on the road and suddenly you notice the little red engine temperature needle climbing into dangerous territory. You may even see smoke or steam wafting up from under the hood. The engine is overheating. What do you do? What could cause this to happen?
First things first: Don’t panic. Your engine isn’t likely to blow up (though if you do notice smoke or steam, pull over immediately). If it seems to be overheating just slightly, turn off the air conditioner to take some strain off of the engine and turn on the heat to draw heat away from the engine.
If turning off the A/C and blasting the heat brings the needle back down, try your best to make it home or to the nearest auto repair shop if those places are within a quarter mile. If not, pull over and turn the engine off. When a vehicle overheats in heavy traffic, avoid using the brakes too frequently and do your best to get off the road as soon as possible. From there, either call a tow truck or, if you’re comfortable with the inner workings of your vehicle (and have coolant, water and basic auto repair tools on hand), prepare to find the source of the problem.
Once the engine has cooled after about half an hour, carefully pop the hood and find the coolant tank. The initial thing to look for is a coolant leak. If the tank is empty or if coolant is low and there is an obvious crack, a leak is probable. In this case you will need to have the coolant tank replaced eventually, but in the meantime you should add coolant to the radiator. SAFETY NOTE: Wait until the engine is completely cool before opening the radiator cap. Failing to do so can lead to serious burns from pressurized fluid.
From there, add the correct ratio of coolant and water, replace the cap, close the hood and make your way to an auto repair shop.
If both the coolant reservoir and radiator have the correct levels of coolant, a number of other mechanical issues could be causing the overheating:
- incorrect coolant to water ratio
- a malfunctioning thermostat
- a broken radiator or radiator fan
- a cracked or broken hoses
- a bad water pump
- a broken fan belt
- a clogged radiator
- extremely hot weather
If you find that your engine gets a little too hot a little too often or experience a major overheating episode, bring the vehicle into American Pride. We specialize in cooling system and engine repair and our ASE-certified technicians are well-versed in fixing the problems that lead an engine to overheat. Call or contact American Pride today to schedule an appointment.