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Why Does My Car Engine Keep Overheating?

Why Does My Car Engine Keep Overheating?

You might be at home (or out on the side of the road) asking yourself, “Why is my car overheating?”  A car often overheats because of problems with the engine relating to oil and/or engine coolant.  It could be a fan or the thermostat.  In the end, something within the cooling system gone awry.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


Picture the scenario.  You’re cruising down the highway on a beautiful Chicago day.  The sun is out; the birds are singing.  You look down to check your gas level, and all of the sudden, you spy the temperature is in the red!  It’s not the first time… 

At this point, someone should logically ask, why does my car keep overheating? 

There could be a number of reasons your car overheats.

To make matters worse, there aren’t a lot of quick fixes that do much good.  To make matters worse, the repairs for an overheating car could be costly.  

My Car Engine Overheated:  What Should I Do?

No car is the same, but a car that leaves you asking the question “why does my car keep overheating?” will probably present at least some of these common symptoms of an overheated engine.

The first observation you might make could be the smoke pouring out of the vehicle’s hood.  It appears to be smoke, but it’s most likely steam.  

Cars are designed to run at a specific temperature.  In cold weather, it takes longer to reach that temperature, but the little needle on the dashboard should never cross into the H for hot.  If it does, shut off the car.  Arrange a tow.  

Get your cooling system checked out as soon as possible.

Did you now that a sweet smell from your car is a warning?  Leaking coolant smells like sticky candy.  Oil leaks, on the other hand, smell like something is burning.

You might be able to deal with the overheating problem, at least to get yourself to a safe location, with the following items: small basic tool kit, several quarts of oil, a gallon of engine coolant (1:1 antifreeze and water).  Grab a towel and some gloves, too.

If you are driving, and the engine temperature goes up a little too high, you can turn the heater on full blast.  It doesn’t make the car engine hotter.  In fact, it sends the hot air out of the engine into the cabin of the car.  It may help cool things down under the hood.

This isn’t a fun ride, though.  Imagine panicking because of an engine problem while the heat is on full blast.

This may provide a quick fix to a light problem, or it may not help at all.  If the temperature needle isn’t returning to normal, it’s not working.  Pull over.

If you have a problem with the cooling system while you are driving, you are going to have to chill out yourself.  You may be panicking because of the steam pouring out of the engine or the beeping signal that the engine has overheated.  

You cannot open the car hood for at least twenty minutes after turning the car off.  The engine is hotter than normal, and the risk of taking a steady stream of steam to the face simply isn’t worth it.

When it is safe to do so, you can add coolant to the engine.  Put on those heavy-duty gloves and undo the hood latch.  Find the cap for the radiator (but don’t touch it).  Grab a towel and use it to protect yourself as you open the cap, just a small turn, to let out pressure.

To make coolant, combine water and antifreeze into a one-to-one solution. If it works, you can drive to a safe location, like your home or a mechanic’s garage.  Don’t expect to go on with life as normal until this problem is fixed.

Your best bet is to find a certified mechanic to resolve the issue for you.

If you have an old car, and the engine overheating isn’t even the worst of its ills, you may consider sending that lemon to the junkyard.  The good news is that the tow is usually free, and many junkyards pay cash for used and broken cars.

Why Does My Car Keep Overheating?

Why does my car keep overheating?  Better yet, how do I fix it?   Both great questions.

Who doesn’t have the occasional nightmare that they are driving and the whole panel lights up?  It feels like that, but worse!

A car that overheats is a car that needs repair.  When the bells, whistles, and alarms go off in the car telling you the that car is overheating, it’s a scary moment.

If you see your car overheating, you might have a bunch of steam coming out of it.  That’s scary, too!

You can turn the heat on to max for a few minutes to help, but you can’t push it more than that.

As soon as you think you might be experiencing an overheating engine, it's important to pull over and take stock of what's wrong. If you cannot pull over safely turn off the air conditioning and turn the heater on to maximum.

Sometimes smoke comes from the exhaust pipe when this happens.  The smoke can be black or white.  The AC won’t work either.

Why is this happening?

There are three main reasons.  The first is the thermostat in the car engine isn’t working.  You might have a radiator fan that’s out of order.  The final reason is just as common: a coolant leak.

If you’re going to try the old “turn on the heater and cool down the engine trick,” you have to keep in mind that you will be pumping in that hot air like there’s no tomorrow.  

Things will heat up quickly inside of the cabin, even if you roll the windows down.  How long will you be able to stand it?

The engine gets very hot.  It’s a machine.  It has friction and combustion.  It’s hot under the hood, plain and simple.  

If the system that protects the engine from getting too hot breaks down in any way, you’re going to have all of the problems that come with an overheated car.

Why Does My Car Keep Overheating and How do I Fix it?

If you are searching the web for information to answer the question “Why does my car keep overheating?”, then you perhaps need solutions more than you need explanations.

In other words, here are some common repairs that will have to be made to get a car that constantly overheats back on the road.

Why My Car Keeps Overheating: The Thermostat

Why does my car keep overheating?  It could be that thermostat.

A failed thermostat is bad news.  The thermostat regulates the temperature, just like it does in a house.

Because of this, the engine warms up to a safe temperature.  Once there, the cooling system gets into gear, sending coolant to and from the engine as it cools down in the radiator.

The thermostat can break in either the open or closed position.  If this happens, you might think your car heater isn’t working.  If the thermostat is stuck on open mode, the engine doesn’t heat up appropriately.  If it’s stuck on closed, it overheats.  

Luckily, this often engages the car’s check engine light so that a driver can find a mechanic or make the repair at home.

Why My Car Keeps Overheating: The Radiator Fan

Another reason why your car keeps overheating – the culprit could be a bad radiator fan. 

If it isn’t the thermostat, it could be the radiator fan.

If you have ever left your car running in a parking lot, you might think that it’s time to shut the car off when you finally hear those fans start up.  The fan literally blows hot air away.  If this fan stops working, then your car may overheat when the airflow is low. 

The good news is that this could be okay on a long drive down a country road with little traffic.  If this problem occurs to you on rush hour in the city, then forget it.  You’re a goner.  The engine will heat up fast in stop and go traffic. 

You can take a car with a bad radiator to a mechanic for repair.

Why My Car Keeps Overheating: Coolant Leaks

Maybe you’re still wondering… Why does my car keep overheating?  There could be a problem with the coolant itself.  Coolant leaks are a telltale sign of cooling system problems in a car.

Engineers and mechanics have worked tirelessly to remove heat from the modern car engine by designing a cooling system.  The system circulates coolant to and from the engine, lowering its temperature to an acceptable level.

If there is a coolant leak, you will get a warning light on the car’s dashboard.  You might also smell that intoxicatingly sweet scent of antifreeze inside the car.

Sometimes coolant leaks are discovered by green, pink, orange, or blue puddles under the car.  Other times, they are caught when the engine is being cleaned or at a routine oil change.

Coolant leaks are serious business.  Be sure to take your car to a mechanic if it is overheating.  

How Much Does It Cost to Repair a Car that is Overheating?

Problems with the cooling system are going to run the car owner about $500 to $1,500 on average.  

There is a big range. It all depends on the nature of the problem and how much damage has been caused by the symptoms of the problem.

You might need to replace additional parts, like the head gasket.  

If oil is mixed into coolant, there is a serious problem that requires pricy repairs.

The best advice is to shop around to avoid getting ripped off by a mechanic.  Get several estimates on the work before choosing a garage.

If your car is old, you may consider getting used parts.  Avoid paying for “premium parts,” as some garages use them for these repairs.  They cost more.

What should I do with My Car when it Overheats?

How many times can you search the Internet, asking the question “Why does my car overheat” before you realize the time has now come for you to take action?

The question needs to be asked because there aren’t that many options when it comes to dealing with a car that overheats.

Some people have a problem with their cooling system and let the problem rule their lives.  This is easy to do in the winter, especially when it comes to sneaking in short trips (or long highway trips without traffic).  

If the car engine never gets too hot, it’s easy to pretend the engine doesn’t have a problem.

Waiting it out isn’t going to make the engine problems go away.

Your choices are to repair the car yourself, take it to mechanic, abandon the vehicle, sell it, or send the car to junkyard once and for all.

Drivers with old cars that have additional problems like shotty brakes, broken bumpers, and bad tires may consider scrapping the whole car.

Calling a junkyard isn’t a bad idea when you have radiator problems.  For starters, if you’re handy under the hood, you might call a local junkyard to ask if they have the parts you need.  With older cars, sometimes this is the only way to get the part at all.

If you’re not going to do the repairs, then perhaps you can call the junkyard to come tow your old broken car away.  Overheating engines will be a thing of the past.  

In fact, the company may pay you cash money for your old car.  You could put those funds toward a new car that doesn’t overheat.

Whether you are worried about your radiator, thinking about the engine overheating, or ready to junk that old car altogether, you should now be able to answer the question you’ve been asking over and over again:  Why does my car keep overheating?