In any vehicle, the engine operates at certain temperature ranges. If your engine's temperature rises above the specified range, the engine might not function properly if not get destroyed.
Your car contains a cooling system to maintain your engine’s temperature within the specified operating range by the manufacturer. Any problem with your cooling system might result in car overheating.
Over time of use, it is expected for the cooling system’s components to malfunction. As a result, car overheating is a very common problem with many drivers.
While a professional mechanic must perform the car overheating fix, there is a list of actions you can do to help cool down your engine, so the problem does not cause engine damage.
This article provides you with an overview of how the cooling system works. Then, it summarizes the main causes of car overheating along with the best practices for car overheating fix.
It is important to note that these suggested best practices only help cool down your engine for a short period, not fully resolve the problem.
Therefore, if your car overheats, you must take it to a professional mechanic and have it inspected and repaired as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more complicated the problem is.
How does the cooling system work?
Before we talk about the car overheating fix, it is important to understand the concept of your vehicle's cooling system fully. Once you understand how the cooling system works, it should be easy for you to pinpoint the issue when your car overheats.
Your vehicle's cooling system works by allowing a coolant fluid to pass around the engine and pick up the hea. Once the coolant gets hot, it goes back to the radiator to cool down. Then, it will go back to the engine to pick up the heat one more time.
Your vehicle's water pump is responsible for maintaining a continuous flow of the coolant through the cooling system.
Another important component of your cooling system is the thermostat, which controls the coolant’s flow around the engine. For example, the thermostat works as a valve allowing the coolant to pass when the engine is hot and blocks it from passing when the engine is within the operating temperature range.
Your vehicle's engine must remain within the operating temperature range all the time. However, this can be a challenge in winter this especially when the temperature drops below zero as the coolant might freeze. Thus, in your cooling system, there must be an antifreeze the prevent the coolant from freezing as temperature drops below zero.
Car overheating causes
As we mentioned before, your vehicle's engine cools down by coolant’s circulation around the engine. If any component of the cooling system malfunction, car overheating could occur. This section will summarize the most common causes of car overheating.
- Issues with the cooling system
The first and most common cause of car overheating is any disturbance in the coolant circulation around the engine. Therefore, the first thing you need to check when your engine overheats is the status of your cooling system, including the coolant, the radiator, water pump, etc.
- Fluid leak
To maintain the engine's temperature within the specified operating range, a certain amount of coolant must pass around it. If your cooling system does not have the required amount of coolant, it will not drop the engine's temperature to the operating ranges.
One of the common causes of a low coolant level is a coolant leak. If you see a puddle of green fluid underneath your vehicle, it is a clear sign of coolant leak.
If the coolant leak was severe and caused a large puddle under your vehicle, you might not be able to drive it and must have it towed to the nearest repair shop.
It is recommended that you check for external leaks when the vehicle cools down. This is because the coolant might leak and evaporate right away digital high engine temperature.
Sometimes the coolant leak that is causing the car overheating is minor. The best way to inspect for a minor coolant leak is by looking underneath your vehicle and spotting floor drops around the cooling system.
While you can visually inspect for major coolant leak, it can be a little tricky to identify minor internal leak; thus, if your vehicle overheats and you don't see the leak, this does not mean that no coolant leak exists.
Whether the leak is minor or major, you must take action and have it repaired as soon as possible to avoid getting involved in complicated issues with your engine that might end up with complete engine failure.
- A faulty hose
As we mentioned earlier, the coolant must go around the engine in a certain amount to bring its temperature down to the optimum operating level. This coolant passes through a network of pipes that might get partially blocked over time of use.
While the pipes cannot completely get blocked, even a partial blockage in the piping network might disturb the cooling system functionality.
Therefore, you must perform regular maintenance to these pipes and replace them when needed to ensure proper functionality of the cooling system and avoid car overheating.
- Other possible causes
If you ensured that none of the previously mentioned problems exist, the problem could be related to internal malfunction with your engine itself.
The best way to confirm the culprit is by taking your vehicle to a professional mechanic and have it inspected and repaired.
Again, ignoring car overheating can result in severe engine self-destruction. Therefore, you must take your vehicle to a professional mechanic as soon as possible, and avoid driving your vehicle as much as you can.
Car overheating fix
While the professional mechanic is the best person to deal with car overheating fixes, the are some actions you can do to resolve the problem or at least cool your engine down temporarily. This section will cover the best practices you can do for car overheating fix.
- Reduce the pressure on your engine
The first thing you need to do is to reduce the stress and pressure on your engine as much as you can. To do so, turn off unnecessary functions like air conditioning. Your air conditioning relies on the vehicle's radiator as part of the functionality of the condenser. Therefore, once you turn the air conditioning off, the radiator will focus its work on cooling down the engine only.
- Turn on your vehicle's heater
While this might sound like a weird solution for this problem, it works. When you turn on your vehicle heater, it takes any heat access out of the engine and blows it inside your vehicle. This way, the engine’s temperature drops, and hopefully, your engine cools down.
Some people find this solution challenging, especially in summer days, but it's better than dealing with engine self-destruction.
- Reduce acceleration
Vehicles acceleration puts additional pressure on your engine; therefore, as your engine overheats, you must maintain driving at lower speeds and avoid accelerating.
If your car overheats when you're driving on the highway, the best thing to do is to pull over and use the nearest exit to drive on city roads.
Once you are out of the highway, you can slow down your vehicle and not drive at high speeds to avoid complicated issues with the engine.
This way, you provide yourself more time to drive to the nearest repair shop without damaging your engine completely.
- Pullover and check under your hood
Once you exit the highway, you need to find a good location to pull over. It's not recommended that you stop the vehicle at the side roads while people are driving with high speeds.
Once you pulled over, look at the hood of your vehicle and check for steam coming out from the hood. If that's the case, do not open the hood unless the steam subsides. This is because the steam might be coming from a boiling coolant that is spraying and splashing inside your vehicle.
Once the steam subsides, you can open the hood an allow air to cool down the engine faster.
Your vehicle's engine should cool down within 20 to 30 minutes. These estimates vary depending on the weather's temperature. For example, if it's a summer day, you need your engine cool down for at least one hour period.
On the other hand, if it's a winter day, it might take from 10 to 15 minutes only for the engine to cool down.
Another thing you can do in this situation is to turn the ignition on without starting your vehicle. This way, and the electric fan can also help in cooling down the engine.
How to prevent your car from overheating?
The best way to prevent car overheating is by following the guidance of your vehicle’s owner’s manual. If you don't have your vehicle’s owner’s manual, you find it online or get a copy from your mechanic.
The vehicle owners' manual will have recommendations about how often you should change coolant, the hoses, the belts, and any other components in your cooling system.
For example, in your vehicle's owner's manual, and will say replace the coolant every 60,000 miles. Similarly, your vehicle's owners manual might say replace your water pump between 60,000 and 90,000 miles. Same for the other cooling system components Like the radiator, hoses, thermostat, coolant temperature sensor, etc.
While these recommendations are good to start with, depending on your driving style, the coolant type, the environments come up, you might need to replace them more often.
Therefore, keep an eye for signs of car overheating along with a full understanding of the vehicle owners' manual guidance to prevent your car from overheating.
How does the coolant affect car overheating?
Well, since the coolant is the primary fluid cooling down the engine, ensuring using the right coolant is crucial.
Your vehicle’s owner’s manual has detailed recommendations about what type of coolant you should be using and how often you should change it. If you selected a different type of coolant, you might be dealing with car overheating issues.
Furthermore, it is important to replace your coolant on time. As the coolant gets older, it picks up rust and other particles, which could affect its ability to cool down your engine.
Therefore you're coolant’s role in preventing car overheating consists of regular coolant replacements and using the right coolant type.
Your vehicle's engine operates at a certain temperature range; if the engine’s temperature goes beyond this range, the engine will not operate properly. In difficult situations, car overheating can result in engine damage.
The cooling system consists of the coolant fluid that passes around the engine to bring its temperature down to the operating ranges. Then, this coolant drops its temperature by passing around the radiator.
Over time of use, any component of the cooling system might malfunction, resulting in car overheating. Car overheating is a very complicated problem that can easily result in engine self-destruction. Therefore, if your car overheats, you must take action immediately and have it inspected and repaired by a professional mechanic.
While the professional mechanic will be able to assist you in this situation, there are many actions you can do to cool down your engine on your own so you could drive your vehicle to the repair shop without further complicating the problem. These actions include turning off your AC system, turning on your heater, stopping your car, and popping the hood open to cool down the engine.
It is important to note that the actions mentioned are meant to cool down your car temporarily. That been said, you must get the root problem resolved by a professional mechanic as soon as possible.