Is your car, truck, or SUV overheating? If you are unsure, but you think there may be something wrong with your car, take a few moments to read more about common overheating issues in cars. A good place to start is understanding what causes a car to overheat.
Gasoline and diesel engines create energy through combustion. Combustion combined with the friction from moving engine parts creates heat. Over time, friction combined with exposure to heat causes normal wear-and-tear inside your car’s engine. One of the ways engines are able to withstand this overtime is through engine cooling.
An engine’s cooling system is extremely important to a vehicle’s long-term health. One of the first signs of trouble is when the engine temperature gauge, commonly located within a vehicle’s instrument cluster, near the speedometer, begins climbing above the normal operating range. Most cars operate between 195° to 220° Fahrenheit when the engine is completely warmed up.
Where To Check If Your Vehicle Is Overheating
If your engine temperature gauge reads higher than the normal operating range, your vehicle may need an appointment to see a cardr.com You can, however, use a few simple overheating fixes before making an appointment. There are many possible causes if your car is overheating. Some of the most common causes are:
A bad thermostat can cause overheating issues. A car’s thermostat is very important to its cooling system, it is usually in a housing somewhere along the hose path between the engine and the radiator. The thermostat prevents the coolant from flowing to the radiator until the engine has reached its normal operating temperature.
Once the car reaches its normal operating temperature, the thermostat’s sensor tells it to open, allowing coolant to circulate through the radiator which decreases the temperature. This cooler coolant then re-circulates through the engine to help it maintain a normal operating temperature range.
When the thermostat is not functioning properly, it is usually because it becomes stuck in the closed position. This thermostat malfunction prevents the coolant from circulating through the radiator before re-circulating through the engine. Since the coolant has no way of cooling off in the radiator, engine temperatures begin climbing quickly.
Potential symptoms of a bad thermostat include high-temperature gauge readings, erratic temperature gauge changes and coolant leaks around the thermostat housing. Changing the thermostat is a very inexpensive part compared to the auto repair bill that will come with ignoring the symptoms until it is too late.
Radiator blockage can also cause overheating issues. Similar to a malfunctioning thermostat, a clogged radiator prevents the healthy flow of coolant through the radiator. When the coolant is unable to properly cool down, it can cause overheating issues.
Potential symptoms of radiator blockage include high-temperature gauge readings and coolant or antifreeze discoloration. Additionally, if the heater inside the vehicle does not feel like it is blowing hot air, you may have some radiator blockage. Although you cannot see if the radiator is clogged from the outside, you can visually inspect the exterior fins of the radiator to check if they are blocked or damaged.
If you are experiencing symptoms of radiator blockage, schedule an appointment to flush the coolant system. A coolant system professional will know how bad the radiator blockage is after inspecting it.
A faulty water pump is another common cause of overheating issues. The water pump is important because it is what keeps coolant flowing through the hoses to the radiator and engine block. Sometimes a water pump fails because car owners ignore symptoms of a bad thermostat or radiator blockage. Other times a water pump fails from normal wear-and-tear.
Potential symptoms of a bad or failing water pump include a puddle of coolant under the front-center of your car, a high-pitched screeching sound audible when the engine is running or steam coming from the radiator. A bad or failing water pump will cause overheating issues. If you ignore a bad or failing water pump, serious engine damage will occur.
Other potential causes may include a leaky radiator hose, loose fan belt, or even just dirty coolant that needs to be changed.
3 Potential Overheating Quick Fixes
When you are in a hurry to get somewhere quickly, you can try these simple overheating fixes to get there safely if your vehicle’s engine is running hotter than usual. Of course, it is important to properly diagnose the cause of the problem, but should it occur while you are driving, you can try these tricks until you are able to safely pull over to the side of the road.
- If you are running the A/C, turn it off. This reduces your engine’s short-term workload. Next, turn the heat on full blast. This trick vents your engine’s excess heat to warm up the air that will be blowing inside the cabin. Although it may be uncomfortable on a hot summer day, blowing the heat at full blast will help your engine cool down a bit.
- If it is safe to do so, put your vehicle’s transmission in neutral (N) or in the park position (P), but do not do this until the car is at a complete stop. Proceed by gently revving your engine, but be careful not to rev close to or past the redline on the tachometer. This trick increases the coolant circulation. If your engine’s temperature is not dropping, proceed to step 3.
- Pullover to the side of the road or enter a parking lot. Park the vehicle, turn the engine off and open the car’s hood. This trick allows heat to escape from the engine bay while letting natural air circulate around it. Be very careful when opening the hood in case of hot steam bursts out.
Warning: Never attempt to open or remove your radiator cap while the vehicle’s engine is still hot. The coolant system is under pressure when it is hot and opening the radiator cap can result in serious body burns. Be smart, use a CarDR mobile vehicle inspection so you can avoid a trip to the doctor yourself.
Once your vehicle is pulled over, most makes and models will allow you to check the engine temperature without starting the engine. Simply turn the key to the accessories position and most instrument gauges will light up or provide the information you are looking for.
Remember, even if you want to check your coolant level, never remove the radiator cap when the vehicle’s engine is warm or hot. While having a low coolant level can cause overheating, you should wait for the engine to cool down completely before checking the level. Many vehicles have a coolant overflow tank that allows you to see the level without opening anything. You still want the engine to cool down completely in order to get an accurate reading.
Avoid Unnecessary Engine Damage With Preventative Maintenance
If you have checked the coolant level and if you do not see any puddles under the vehicle after it has been parked in the same spot for a while, you may need to diagnose the cause of the problem. Some people know their way around tools in a garage while others do not.
That is okay, the important thing is taking care of your car’s long-term health. No matter if you try to fix it yourself or if you have a professional diagnose it for you, ignoring overheating issues can cause major damage down the road.
There are potentially serious consequences if you fail to diagnose and fix the cause of engine overheating. When an engine overheats past its limit, you risk damaging or blowing the head gasket. Head gasket replacements can be expensive repairs. Overheating can also cause an engine to seize up completely, if this happens it will need to be replaced altogether.
Having a vehicle inspected professionally is the first step toward applying preventative maintenance when it comes to taking care of your vehicle’s heartbeat. A full inspection can help you see potential issues before they become a problem or a serious auto repair bill.
This is also true when you are shopping for a used or certified pre-owned vehicle as well. The last thing you need after buying a car is to experience overheating issues while driving it home. Know before you go home with CarDr.com Pre-Purchase Used Car Inspection.