All cars can overheat, even in cool climates. Engines work hard to keep your car moving, and it generates a lot of internal heat. Your car’s cooling system typically runs fans and water through pipes to take away the excess heat. If the cooling system fails for any reason, this can do significant damage to your car, and even permanently damage your engine. In the best-case scenario, your engine will stop when it reaches a certain temperature. This can save your engine, but it still sucks, especially if you are in a hurry.
Before going into how to stop your car from overheating, you should know what to do when your car does overheat.
- Do not attempt to restart the engine. Push your car over to the side of the road, open the hood, and let the engine cool on its own.
- Do not take off the radiator cap immediately after overheating. The water is very hot and since it is a closed system, there will be a lot of pressure buildup. Removing the radiator cap while it is still hot can lead to an explosive release of steam and hot water. You and anyone around you will be burned badly. If you want to add water to the radiator, wait for it to be cool enough to touch.
- Do check for holes and leaks while you’re waiting for the engine and radiator to cool. You may be losing water, which led to overheating. You might be able to make temporary repairs, good enough to hold the water in until you can get it to an auto repair shop.
- Do have a safety kit in the car. You never know when and where your car will overheat or otherwise break down, so it better to be prepared. This should include electrical and duct tape for patching holes, coolant, tool kit, a flashlight, batteries, a blanket, packets of non-perishable food, and water.
- Do keep secure. If you have a break down a night in the middle of nowhere, put out your reflector lights and then get back into the car with your windows up and doors locked to wait for help or daylight. If a stranger offers to help, do not get out of the car, especially if you are alone or with children. Instead, ask them to send back a tow truck or the police if you haven’t done it yet.
Here are tips for preventing your car from overheating in the first place.
- Have your radiator cleaned and checked regularly for leaks and blockages by a professional. You may not be able to see it on your own. You can also do your part by checking the water. If you have to top it off each day you use it, you probably have a slow leak that can get faster.
- Check that the fan is working. Your cooling system uses a fan to cool the water in the radiator as it circulates. If you fan is not working, your engine will overheat.
- Use coolant. Coolant helps to keep your engine working well and avoid overheating, especially during hot summer days. Put in new coolant every time you have your radiator flushed.
- Your car should have a temperature gauge that monitors the status of your engine. Keep an eye on it after you’ve been driving for a while. If it seems to be climbing higher than usual, that is a sign you should not ignore. Pull in to a garage or gas station If possible. If it is not and the gauge gets dangerously close to the uppermost range, pull over on the side of the road to prevent engine damage. Let your engine cool off before attempting to drive back home or to your regular garage.
- Change your oil regularly. Sometimes, the problem is with your engine and not the cooling system. Your engine will run increasingly hotter if the oil is old and dirty, so the cooling system can’t keep up. Change your engine oil every 5,000 kilometers if you have an old car, and 10,000 km if you have a relatively new one.
It is inconvenient, even dangerous, when your car overheats unexpectedly. You can prevent that by maintaining your car regularly, and paying attention to signs that you may have a problem.