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Car Overheating Causes – Watch Out For Leaks in the Cooling System! 

Car Overheating Causes

No driver wants to have an overheating car. Not only does it reduce engine performance, but it can severely damage the internal components if the car is not immediately cooled off and returned to the normal operating temperature. Let’s find out the main car overheating causes and how you can prevent these problems from causing irreversible issues in your car. 

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How to Minimize Car Overheating Damage 

If you find yourself in a situation where you are certain your car is overheating, there are some steps you can take to reduce the permanent damage to your vehicle.

  1. Turn off your air conditioning in your car immediately. As soon as you smell overheating or burning form under the hood, switch off all AC controls.
  2. Turn your defroster on the control panel to HOT, with the fan on the highest setting. Although this may sound counterintuitive, it can help prevent excess overheating. 
  3. Along with this setting, roll down your windows so that the car heater will suck out as much heat as possible from the engine. 
  4. If you are stopped in traffic when you notice the overheating, put your car into the ‘neutral’ or ‘park’ position and increase the engine speed and RPM level. This step helps move cool liquid throughout the internal system of your car to help remedy some of the car overheating causes. 
    1. Don’t excessively press on the pedal, as increasing the engine past 2,000 RPM can exacerbate the car overheating causes.
  5. If you are slowly moving your car, put the car in the lowest possible gear to maintain at a safe speed. 
  6. Once it is safe, get your car off the road as soon as possible to prevent any further engine damage. 

If you keep an eye and ear – and nose – out for the causes of overheating, you can help remedy some of the most common car overheating causes and prevent irreversible engine damage for your vehicle. 

Most Common Car Overheating Causes

If you are trying to figure out the most common and most severe car overheating causes, you need to know the reasons why your engine cooling system has failed. If your vehicle is overheating, this is a clear sign that your engine is desperate for attention, such as additional coolant or routine maintenance. 


A vehicle can overheat at any point in the car’s lifespan, whether it be a new car, an old car, speeding up on the highway, or slowing down in a neighborhood. If your cooling system is no longer effectively cooling off your engine while liquid distribution will immediately notice the signs and symptoms of an overheating engine. 


Let’s check out the most common reasons why a vehicle’s cooling system fails and the most noticeable car overheating causes.

Leaks in the Cooling System

    • The number one reason why your cooling system has failed and your engine is too hot to handle is leaks in the lines and tubes that transport coolant. Coolant is an important liquid in your vehicle’s operation, transporting a low-temperature liquid to help prevent excess friction and provide lubrication to the internal parts. 
    • If you discover leaks in the hoses, radiator, water pumps, heater core, head gasket, freezer plugs, or thermostat housing, these are all car overheating causes that can lead to excessively high temperatures. 
    • If you suspect a leak, bring your car to a mechanic as soon as possible so they can try adding coolant for a quick-fix to the car overheating causes.
  • The average price for a coolant change is between $94 and $118, with the labor making up the entire price of this procedure. 

Coolant Concentration and Pooling 

    • One of the other most common car overheating causes is coolant concentration. The wrong type of coolant or the wrong mixture of coolant and water can cause the vehicle to overheat due to a lack of distribution of the liquid. 
    • If you find that the coolant is pooling in certain spots and is not able to freely travel between the hoses and pipes in the engine system, this is a sign you are using the wrong type of coolant or ratio of coolant-to-water. 
  • The average price of a coolant flush is between $100 and $150, with the average price coming to $99 for a radiator flush at a standard shop. 

Faulty Thermostat

    • Your car’s thermostat is a key part of the cooling system, ensuring the right amount of coolant can pass through to the radiator. 
    • If the thermostat is stuck in the closed position, the coolant can no longer move through the hoses and reach the radiator. If the radiator is not cooled off while operating, this is one of the main car overheating causes. 
  • Replacing the engine thermostat is between $150 and $200, with the labor coming to around $125 and the parts cost around $50 on average. 

Broken Radiator

  • The car radiator has an important purpose in the inner workings of your vehicle – it operates to reduce the temperature of the hot liquid coming from the engine. By reducing the liquid temperature and returning it cooled to the engine, it can prevent overheating and friction. 
  • If the radiator is not working correctly, you will find this is one of the most common car overheating causes since the cooling of the engine will no longer be achieved.
  • Replacing the car radiator will cost between $300 and $900, with the labor involving the mechanic checking for leaks, removing the radiator, flushing the system, and installing a new radiator. 

Worn-Out Hoses

    • Another one of the most common car overheating causes comes from a broken or worn-out hose. Hoses with cracks or holes can disrupt the flow and transportation of the coolant, the liquid used to cool-down the overworked engine parts. 
  • The average price of radiator hose replacement is between $149 and $170, with the labor between $77 and $97 and the parts priced at around $72. 

Malfunctioning Radiator Fan

    • The radiator fan works to pull air across the radiator to reduce the coolant’s temperature before it is sent to the engine.
    • If you have a broken clutch or fan motor, this is one of the main car overheating causes, since it can’t help reduce the temperature. 
  • Replacing the car radiator is between $292 and $1193 at most automotive shops, with the average cost for the radiator replacement coming to $671. 

Loose or Broken Belts

  • If a belt is loose and no longer moves smoothly along the track, it can’t help the system maintain the correct volume of coolant flow.
  • Without the proper coolant flow, a loose belt is one of the main car overheating causes within the engine system. 
  • Replacing the timing belt for your engine costs between $500 and $900 on average, with the total price costing upward of around $2,000 if the damage extends to the valves, pistons, and the water pump. 

Faulty Water Pump

  • The purpose of the water pump in your vehicle is to keep the internal engine system at an operable level. Without this part working correctly, your vehicle will not have the right pressure level to move engine coolant through the cooling system. 
  • Any issue you find with the water pump can arise from erosion, leaks, excess friction, or constant use. A broken pump is one of the main car overheating causes that spur from the disruption of the flow of coolant.
  • An overheating vehicle needs immediate attention – and so does the faulty water pump. Replacing the water pump in your vehicle costs between $300 and $750 depending on the make, model, and year of your car
    • Although the water pump itself may only cost between $50 and $100, the labor can run between $200 and $450, with the billed hours usually between 2 and 4.5 hours total. 

Troubleshooting Car Overheating

  • Check the Coolant Level

  • The first step is to turn the vehicle off, park the car on a level surface, and remove the radiator cap.
  • The coolant level should be filled to the radiator’s top. if the level is too low, top-off the coolant with the specific kind for your vehicle. 
  • If needed, replace the radiator cap to prevent any future car overheating causes.
  • Make sure there is no air in the system

  • Next, check for any air bubbles within the system that can cause the coolant not to circulate properly.
  • If there is excess air present, this could be one of the main car overheating causes in your case.
  • Check the Radiator Fans Are Spinning

  • Turn the car on, pop the hood, and listen to see if the radiator fans will turn on. 
  • If the car begins to overheat and you do not hear the radiator fan, this is a sign the cooling fan motor is one of the main car overheating causes. 
  • Test the Fan Motor

  • If the fans do not spin, the issue could be with the electric fan motor or the fan relay.
  • Check the Serpentine Belt

  • The final diagnostic step is to check the serpentine belt for any looseness or cracks. 
  • Pop the hood and look for any pulleys without a belt that can be one of the main car overheating causes, since the water pump will not run and the coolant will no longer circulate.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, finding out the most common car overheating causes can help prevent extreme engine damage that leads to irreversible problems and a hefty engine replacement cost! 

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