Engine trouble is some of the most stressful and potentially expensive work to have done on your car. With such a wide variety of potential issues, it can often feel like a Russian roulette of sorts when waiting for a diagnosis. Engine overheating is a common occurrence for most drivers that can sometimes lead to more significant engine issues down the road. It’s important that drivers know the proper steps to take to help avoid their engine from overheating along with the steps to take in case your engine does overheat to avoid causing further damage.
Here are steps to take should your vehicle begin to overheat.
- Stop the Car- If you see the temperature gauge beginning to climb towards H (typically it will be colored red to stand out and alert you) then when it’s safe to pull over, pull to the side of the road and stop your vehicle. When you’ve come to a complete stop turn your engine off. On extremely hot days, usually in the summer, keep a closer eye on the temperature gauge as that can play a big factor as well.
- Open the Hood- Once you’ve come to a stop, opening the hood of your vehicle will help the heat dispense faster and will help your vehicle begin cooling down. Be careful because if there’s steam emitting from the radiator area, it can be extremely hot and harmful.
- Don’t Open the Radiator Pressure Cap- When your engine is still hot, there will likely be extremely hot steam still emitting from the radiator. Combined with hot radiator fluid, there is a high chance for burns should you open the cap and unleash that pressure.
- Check and Refill Coolant- Attached above or around the radiator is usually a reservoir for radiator coolant so that you can properly monitor the levels. Once your engine has cooled a bit, check the coolant levels and if you can, refill the coolant up to the proper level as this will help cool the radiator down and will also prevent future overheating. If coolant isn’t available, in a pinch you can always use water in the meantime and in most vehicles, coolant can usually be added while the car is still hot. If your vehicle doesn’t have a reservoir, then you must wait for the car to cool down before adding coolant or water to the radiator.
- Search for Leaks- Once you’ve replaced coolant and your vehicle is cooling down, search for leaks in the radiator or in surrounding hoses that could be limiting the fluid getting to the radiator that may cause overheating. If there are no discernable leaks, you can then determine if your vehicle is safe to continue driving or if you’ll need to have it towed to be repaired. If you take your vehicle in to a mechanic, most will check for leaks free of charge, as the process is a relatively simple one.
In some situations your vehicle can be overheating and you may not be able to stop safely. Here are a few tips to help manage driving and to minimize further damaging your engine.
- Turn Off the AC- Using the air conditioner will put an extra load on the engine so turning it off will reduce the stress being put on your engine and in turn help to start cooling it down.
- Turn the Heater On- It may sound like an old wives tale but turning the vents on and turning the heat and the fans all the way up will take heat away from the engine because the heater uses the engine for warm air. In the summer your vehicle will heat up greatly so be sure to roll all of your windows down and point vents outwards toward the windows.
- Turn Your Engine Off/On- Leaving your ignition on but the engine off will keep your radiator fan and blower on and those will help to continue cooling your vehicle. Only do this when you’re sitting at a light or in stopped traffic as it can have more of a strain on your vehicle constantly turning the engine on and off. Also keeping it steady in stop-and-go traffic and avoiding constantly speeding and stopping will help the engine from overworking.
In addition to all of these steps, you can also take more preventative measures like replacing your battery every 3 years as older batteries tend to get more stressed in extreme temperatures. Regular visits to the professional auto mechanic or dealer is also a great way to make sure there are no leaks and that all your car’s fluids are proper. Taking the right precautions will help you avoid extensive damage to your engine and in the event it does overheat, you can be properly prepared to minimize your time spent on the side of the road.