Most vehicles have warning lights and a pressure relief valve so if your engine starts to overheat, you should receive a warning before it damages the engine. If you do find yourself stuck on the side of the road with an overheated vehicle, however, here are a few tips to follow to keep you and your passengers safe:
- Pull over.
- Turn off your engine.
- Call for help.
That’s all you need to do! However, if towing to an auto repair shop is not an option because of where you are, take some of these tips into consideration and see if you can remedy the situation yourself:
- Wait until the engine completely cools – at least 30 minutes!
- Check the coolant/antifreeze reservoir. (Typically, this is a translucent plastic tank next to the radiator). If it’s empty or low on fluid, and the engine has cooled, refill the tank with antifreeze).
- Check hoses for leaks or blockage (if the coolant tank is completely empty or there a drip or puddle on the ground, there’s a leak).
Play it safe and take your car to a mechanic
- Mechanics have special tools and machines that help pinpoint specific issues with your vehicle. The untrained eye will not be able to diagnose problems the way a mechanic will. If your car is overheating, here are a few of the most common reasons why:
- Thermostat Failure: If your thermostat fails, there might not be enough coolant circulating in the engine, which can lead to overheating.
- Blocked Airflow: Air is constantly forced through your vehicle’s radiator. The airflow is what removes heat from the coolant. A build-up of material on the front or back side of the radiator (i.e. leaves, bugs, road debris, etc.) can obstruct the flow of air.
- Leaking Water Pump: As time passes, coolant gets dirty and deteriorates. Rust can also build up in the fluid. This build-up degrades the seals in the pump and can be a common source of pesky coolant leaks.
Follow these pro tips to keep your vehicle from overheating
- Check the appearance of coolant at every oil change. Coolant is responsible for picking up dirt particles that decrease the effectiveness. If it looks cloudy or rusty, it needs to be replaced.
- Regardless of the appearance of coolant, it should be replaced periodically as recommended by the manufacturer of your vehicle.
- Use the type of coolant that is specified by the manufacturer, meaning the chemical type, not just the brand. Each type of coolant contains a different blend of corrosion inhibitors. If you use the wrong one, you can damage your cooling system.
- When in doubt, take your car to an auto repair professional!