Although modern cars are now equipped with a number of advanced cooling systems built with heat sensors and electric fans that are controlled by the car’s onboard computer, engine overheating can still happen. There are many reasons why the engine overheats. Engine overheating causes include a faulty water pump, low coolant, faulty thermostat, damaged radiator, cracked radiator cap, damaged radiator fan, clogged coolant hose, cooling system leak, and a blown head gasket.
Basically, one of the leading engine overheating causes is issues in the car’s cooling system. When this happens, the cooling system won’t be able to get rid of the heat in the engine compartment. This is usually caused by a leak or blockage that has occurred somewhere in the cooling system or the surrounding components. To fix the problem, you need to determine what caused the problem and have it repaired right away. It can be as easy as topping off your coolant or replacing the faulty radiator cap. However, the repair can also be as expensive as replacing the blown head gasket.
Engine Overheating Causes: What is the Most Common Cause of a Vehicle Overheating?
A car’s engine is built to last for a long time. Engines on newer cars are said to have an average lifespan of around 200,000 miles or ten years. The engine can last this long or even more if it is well-maintained and is serviced regularly. A car engine usually needs servicing within its first 5 to 7 years while some cars have engines that can work for over 10 years without having any issues. But regardless of what car you have, its make or model, it is important that you maintain your engine in order to protect it.
Engines might be built sturdy and can last for a long time, but it won’t be able to put up with extremely high temperatures for a long duration. When your engine overheats, it can cause your engine to stop working. Its seals and gaskets might become severely damaged since they won’t be able to handle extreme heat. When the engine overheats it can cause problems that can be too costly to repair. That is why you need to be aware of the engine overheating causes so you will know how you can prevent it.
The most common engine overheating causes include:
- Insufficient amount of engine oil.
The engine oil aids in controlling the engine’s temperature by reducing the friction. An appropriate amount of oil is needed to lubricate the engine’s internal components. It also makes sure that the moving parts of the engine moves smoothly. If your engine has an insufficient amount of oil, it can cause friction which can create excessive heat. Excessive heat can cause overheating which makes low engine oil level as one of the most common engine overheating causes.
- Cooling system leaks.
One of the engine overheating causes is when there is air entering the system through a leak. When your cooling system has a leak due to a puncture or a hole, it makes space or gap which allows air to get sucked in. This air will be shaped like a big bubble which is known as an airlock. This airlock will then occupy the top part of the coolant system. When this happens, the coolant won’t be able to flow through and reach the engine since the airlock has blocked its passage, causing your engine to overheat.
The thermostat is basically a valve found in the middle of the engine and the radiator. It is known as an effective coolant regulator that is controlled by the temperature. If the engine’s coolant gets too hot, the valve will open, allowing the coolant to flow to the radiator. This helps the coolant cool down. When the coolant is not warm, the valve will remain closed and the coolant will continue to circulate inside the engine block.
The thermostat also restricts the coolant from circulating through the engine block just until the engine has warmed up to its appropriate temperature. The thermostat, over time, can become faulty. When this happens, its valve may remain closed which can block the needed coolant from circulating through the engine. The coolant won’t be able to help cool the engine and if this problem continues, it can cause your engine to overheat.
- Issues with the radiator.
The radiator is a vital component of your car’s cooling system. It is the one responsible for pulling the heat away from the cooling system and the engine. So if you have some radiator problems, it can become one of the engine overheating causes. This can happen when your radiator has debris or particle build-ups. Make sure that your radiator is always at its top condition. If you notice any symptoms of a bad radiator, have it checked and repaired immediately.
The radiator helps get rid of the engine heat carried by the coolant using the air that flows over the radiator. However, when the car is not running, the heat will be removed by the radiator fan. This radiator fan will move the air across the radiator to help with the cooling. When it becomes faulty, it can cause your engine to overheat when your car is idling. You may notice that your car will start to cool down again as the car starts moving. This can be an indication that you have problems with your radiator fan.
- Faulty radiator cap.
The radiator cap is made to keep your car’s cooling system pressurized. It helps keep the pressure within the cooling system normalized which can keep the engine cool. If it becomes damaged, it can quickly become one of the engine overheating causes. This can happen since a faulty radiator cap won’t be able to maintain the right pressure for your car and this can cause your engine to start overheating. A damaged cap may allow the coolant to boil off and exit the system instead of helping it be cooled.
Like mentioned earlier, air can enter the system which can accumulate and block the coolant’s free flow. Aside from the coolant system leaks, air can also make its way into the system through the faulty radiator cap. This can happen when the cap no longer has a good seal. These air pockets can block the coolant circulation which can lead to an overheating engine.
- Damaged water pump.
The water pump functions by keeping the coolant flowing through the cooling system. It is responsible for circulating the coolant that absorbs the heat from the engine through the hoses to the radiator. When the radiator removes the heat from the coolant, the coolant will be circulated back to the engine and another cycle will start.
Because of how the water pump functions, when it becomes damaged, it can easily be considered as one of the engine overheating causes. It can wear out and become damaged over time which can cause its impeller to fail and won’t turn anymore. When this happens, it can put your engine in danger since the coolant needs to be flowing and circulating at a certain rate throughout the whole system within the engine block and through the radiator.
A damaged water pump will cause the flow of the coolant to slow down or stop and it can lead to an overheating engine. You may spot a leak under the front of the car and a steam that seems to be coming from the radiator. The moment that you notice this problem, have your car checked and repaired immediately to avoid other potential problems.
- Damaged belts and hoses.
Some of the most common engine overheating causes are issues with the belts and the hoses. The belts and hoses of a car play a crucial role in the air conditioning, cooling, and charging systems of the engine. The belts are responsible for transmitting power from the front of the engine to the accessories that require to be driven like fans and air conditioning while the radiator and heater hoses moves the coolant to and from the engine, heater core, and radiator.
The coolant hoses are susceptible to damages or leaks since they are usually rubber or silicone hoses. They can degrade over time which can lead to leaks and blockages which can hinder the flow of the coolant. When this happens, it can cause your engine to overheat. To prevent this from occurring, make it a habit to perform regular check ups on your belts and hoses. If you see any signs of leaks or cracks, have it repaired immediately.
- Blown head gasket.
The head gasket is what separates the engine block and cylinder head. It acts as a seal so the oil won’t get into the cooling system and the coolant won’t get into the combustion chamber. When the head gasket becomes damaged or blown, it can become one of the engine overheating causes.
This can happen since a blown head gasket can cause leaks which can lead to a low fluid level. When there is not enough fluid within the cooling system, this can lead to a significant decrease of the amount of heat transferred to the coolant from the engine and this can lead to overheating.
Engine Overheating Causes: What Damage is Caused by an Overheating Engine?
Now that you know the most common engine overheating causes, you need to make sure that those problems won’t happen to your car so you don’t have to deal with overheating issues. The moment that you notice any issues from those components, have your car checked and have the problems corrected immediately.
However, if you notice that your engine is overheating while you are driving, you need to pull over and stop your car. You need to allow it to cool down and assess the problem. If you continue to drive your car knowing that it is overheating, it can cause some serious problems. You might want to sell your car when it happens since fixing it may cost you thousands of dollars.
Many might ask, what damages can be caused by an overheating engine? Here’s what could happen:
- Cracked or damaged engine block.
Continuing to drive your overheating engine, not minding to fix the engine overheating causes can result in a damaged or cracked engine block. This can happen since some superheated corners of the engine block tend to expand and contract. This can cause cracks to occur as well as severe oil leaks.
A damaged or cracked engine block will cost you a large sum of money to repair. Repairing it will not be quick too, it will take a lot of time to fix it which can add to the total repair cost. You may have to decide whether to replace the engine or buy a new car instead.
- Warped cylinder heads.
Aluminum cylinder heads are usually found in modern cars. This cylinder head tends to expand when exposed to extreme high temperatures. When the engine overheats for a long period, it can cause the aluminum cylinder heads to warp. When this happens, it can result in a blown head gasket, oil leaks, and other problems.
Warped cylinder heads can also lead to more burning in the engine bay since the oil can leak into some heated metals in the said engine bay. This problem can also result in your engine to lose pressure or power which can affect its performance.
- Damaged exhaust.
When the engine is overheating, an excessive amount of hot gases will pass through your car’s exhaust pipe. This can cause serious damage to the catalytic converter and manifold, especially if your engine overheats repeatedly.
When you are aware of the engine overheating causes, you will know how to prevent it from happening. You will know how to take good care of your engine and the other surrounding components. Other things that you can do to prevent your engine from overheating is by maintaining the proper amount of fluid or oil, following the recommended maintenance and services set by your car’s manufacturer, parking your car in the shade, tinting your windows, using window shades, leaving your car windows slightly open, turning the floor air vents on, and by keeping your eye on your car’s temperature gauge.