Is your engine running hot? You're probably dealing with engine overheating, and here's all you need to know about how to fix overheating car engine:
- Start with checking the radiator fluid
- Perform system leak check
- Inspect the radiator cap
- Check the cooling fans
- Inspect the fan motor
- Check the thermostat
- Inspect the radiator
- Check the head gasket
Your vehicle's engine must operate within a minimum and maximum temperature range. Whenever the temperature exceeds the maximum threshold, you get to a point where the engine is overheating. Without a perfectly working cooling system, the engine might break down, and you'll deal with catastrophic outcomes.
This article provides you with all that you need to know, so you answer the question, “is your engine running hot?” It will explain how the engine might get overheated and the primary causes for the engine or overheating, along with simple repairs.
What is engine overheating, and why does it happen?
Before we dig into the details about is your engine is running hot or how to fix overheating the car engine, we must understand what it means when the engine is overheating or when it's running hot.
To best understand the situation of engine overheating, it is critical that you also understand where the excessive heat comes from in the first place. In any vehicle equipped with a combustion system, a lot of heat is generated through the combustion process. There are several components in your vehicle that prevent the engine from reaching beyond the maximum temperature.
For any engine in a combustion system, the temperature must not exceed a maximum threshold and should not have brought the rule of a certain minimum threshold as well. Whenever your engine's temperature rises beyond the maximum threshold, the cooling system sends coolant to run around the engine and drop its temperature to the optimum level.
Any problem with the cooling system can easily result in engine overheating, and that's when your mechanic might ask you, “is your engine running hot?”
When this happens, your mechanic needs to diagnose the fundamental components of your cooling system and resolve the one that is causing the issue. For example, your mechanic needs to check the coolant for any signs of leaks, inspect the thermostat, check the hoses, look at the radiator, and others.
Is your engine running hot?
Since engine overheating is one of the very significant problems that any engine might deal with, you must learn the main sometimes that could indicate engine overheating issues.
Let's take a closer look at some of the common symptoms to help you answer the question, “Is your engine running hot?”
1. High-temperature gauge reading
One of the first symptoms indicating that your engine is running hot is a very high-temperature gauge reading. The temperature gauge is located on the vehicle's dashboard, and it's responsible for communicating with you to let you know about the existing engine center.
2. Overheating smell
It might sound a little bit weird to say that when your engine overheats, you'll notice an overheating smell. Your vehicle will smell hot every time you get inside the car, and it could be something like hot rubber or hot pieces of plastic.
3. Weird thumping noise
Another thing that you might notice when the engine is overheating is weird thumping noises coming from the thermostat location. If you don't already know, the thermostat serves as a valve that allows the coolant to pass when the engine temperature exceeds the maximum threshold. Unfortunately, the thermostat can easily get stuck open or closed, and when it's stuck close, part of the coolant will be hot, and the other part will be cold, and as they are trying to mix, you'll hear this thumping noise.
4. Weird ticking noise
Similar to the thumping noise, you might also experience some ticking noise coming from the engine. This noise happens because the oil temperature exceeded a maximum threshold, and it turned more like water where it can't lubricate the engine's internal components. When this happens, your engine will start making a ticking noise, indicating that it's not receiving the right level of lubrication.
5. Coolant leak
If the main cause of engine overheating has to do with a coolant leak, you can visually find some fluid dripping underneath the vehicle. However, if you perform a thorough inspection and look at their fluids, you will realize that it's an antifreeze mixed with water, the coolant.
6. Hot steam
If your engine is running hot for a very long time, you might get to a point where the steam comes out of the hood, indicating that the engine compartment is extremely hot. This is a very significant warning sign, and it suggests that you should pull over and stop your vehicle as soon as possible.
7. Reduction in the engine's power
When the engine doesn't receive the maximum level of lubrication and cooling, its performance will drop significantly. That's why you will see that the car doesn't accelerate as it should, and the engine will be overstressed all the time. With the increase in stress and reduction in power, you'll also notice that the car doesn't have the best fuel economy as it should.
8. Hot hood
Finally, if you touch the hood cover, you realize that it's extremely hot, even if the temperature outside is not that hot. However, this might not help you as much if the weather temperature is very hot outside.
How to fix an overheating car engine?
Now you have a good understanding of detecting engine overheating, the next step is to resolve the problem. The easiest way is to reach out to your mechanic and have him perform a thorough inspection to detect the faulty components and replace them.
However, if you would like to save on labor costs, you can do the job yourself and try a couple of things to help cool down the engine and fix your vehicle.
Let's take a closer look at all that you need to do to fix an overheating car engine:
1. Start with checking the radiator fluid
If your engine is running hot, you need to check the radiator fluid shear. This fluid is sometimes referred to as the coolant, or some people call it the anti-freeze. First, locate the radiator fluid reservoir by checking with your vehicle's owner’s manual. Once you find it, you must ensure that your car is cooled down because this reservoir might be extremely hot, and as you open it, a massive amount of hot steam might gosh out of it.
If you realize that the fluid is dry in the reservoir, this could indicate a coolant leak.
2. Perform system leak check
To perform the system leak check, you'll need to purchase a simple pressure leak testing kit. There are plenty of examples in the market that you can invest in. You don't necessarily have to go with the most expensive one, especially if you're not dealing with engine overheating frequently.
Some of these purchases used kits might cost only $30 if you plan to purchase a used one. However, if you still would like to buy a brand new one, there are many for only $70, which is worth the investment because you can keep them and use them anytime you're dealing with engine overheating and would like to check for leaks.
Follow the instructions indicated on the pressure testing kit. Start by connecting it to the radiator fluid reservoir and then pump the pressure. Once you do so, you can easily see and detect the locations where the coolant might be leaking from.
Note that there are some more complicated scenarios where there isn't a big clear hole in the cooling system, and that's why you won't notice a clear leak. If that's the case, you can still use the pressure testing kit and determine any internal problems in the cooling system.
Monitor the behavior of the pressure gauge. For example, assume that you pump pressure in the cooling system for a certain point. Then, stop pumping the pressure and monitor the reading. If the reading is dropping gradually, it indicates that there is some leak inside the cooling system.
3. Inspect the radiator cap
Suppose you noticed that there weren’t any obvious problems with the coolant leak in the cooling system. The next step is to check the radiator cap. In most scenarios, the radiator cap might be loose or have some issues that prevent it from holding the pressure inside the cooling system. If that's the case, you'll need to replace the cap to resolve any overheating problems.
Although there is much equipment that helps you determine whether there are some problems in the radiator cap, Experts suggest that you purchase a cap and replace it just in case, especially if you can visually see the problems because the radiator caps are not very expensive.
4. Check the cooling fans
After confirming that your vehicle doesn't have any coolant leak and the radiator cap looks good to you, the next step is to look at the cooling fan. To test the fans, start the vehicle and turn on the AC system to full blast. Typically, the cooling fan will immediately start running. However, if this doesn't happen, this means that you'll need to replace the cooling fan.
Note that there are two cooling fans around the radiator, and one of them could be working on the other might not. Therefore, you must check both of them to confirm issues.
If you realize that the cooling fans are not working properly, then there wouldn't be enough air getting inside the radiator, and that's why your engine will be running hot.
5. Inspect the fan motor
Sometimes a minor component might lead to significant problems like engine overheating that could damage your engine. For example, a bad fan motor might also result in problems with the cooling system. Therefore, you need also to check this fan motor and confirm that it's working properly.
To do so, you'll need to use a small jump cable and connected to the battery from one side and the other side connected to the cable that provides the motor with the electric charge. Once you connect the cable, if you don't see any movement in the fan, this indicates that the motor is not in good condition, and you'll have to replace it.
6. Check the thermostat
If you still didn't figure out the issue causing engine overheating, it might be a problem with the thermostat. As we highlighted before, the thermostat is the one that's responsible for allowing the coolant to run around the engine when the engine temperature exceeds a maximum threshold.
The thermostat might get stuck closed, preventing the coolant from cooling down the engine, and that's a very critical situation. When this happens, you'll need to replace the thermostat. The good news is that the thermostat replacement is not a complicated job and the thermostat part itself is not very expensive. All you must do is disconnect the two bolts holding the thermostat housing and Replace the thermostat.
7. Inspect the radiator
Unfortunately, if you get to this point and your engine overheating problem is not resolved, you'll be dealing with more complicated and more expensive repairs. First, look at the radiator and check if it's in bad condition because if that's the case, you'll have to replace it. When the radiator is not in good condition, it won't cool down the engine, and you'll deal with engine overheating.
8. Check the head gasket
Finally, another very expensive situation would be if the issue causing the engine to run hot is a blown-out head gasket. If that's the case, you'll have to check with your mechanic and see if you can replace the head gasket or if you got to a point where the engine is completely damaged.
Is your engine running hot? Then you're dealing with engine overheating. Engine overheating can happen due to a variety of reasons that has to do with your cooling system. To fix any engine overheating problems, you'll need to check the following components in order: coolant leaks, broken cooling fan, damaged cooling fan motor, malfunctioning thermostats, bad radiator, and a blown head gasket.
Repair costs for fixing engine overheating vary significantly depending on the root of the problem. If you realize that repair costs are piling up and approaching 75% or more from your vehicle's value, it might be the perfect time for selling your vehicle now to get a better one.
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