Seeing smoke coming out from the hood can freak many drivers out. But engine overheating causes don’t need to be overly worrisome. In this article, I’ll show you the most common engine overheating causes and what to do when it happens.
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What Causes Engine Overheating?
There can be a number of reasons for this happening, and it’s imperative you find the cause in order to determine the best course of action.
#1 Failing coolant system
This is one of the most common causes of an overheating engine. Most manufacturers recommend that you have a coolant flush regularly. But if the coolant system has already failed or it’s not working, then the engine is going to overheat no matter what you do. You can do several things to repair the system and flush it out.
#2 Failing radiator
If your radiator is failing, it will cause the cooling system to overheat and burn out your engine. The radiator is the most vital part of the cooling system and the most easily replaceable part.
#3 Failing thermostat
This will cause your engine to overheat when the coolant reaches a certain boiling temp. Even if there’s coolant in the system, it will overheat without a functioning thermostat. If you have one that you know hasn’t worked in a while, it’s important to replace it. You can also try turning down the temp on your thermostat. This will keep the engine cooler without harming it.
#4 Failing water pump
This is another vital part of the cooling system and can overheat if it’s not working properly and pumping coolant throughout the system. It’s important to have your water pump checked on a regular basis. If you have an older vehicle, it might be in good shape, but could always use an update to ensure that it works as efficiently as possible.
#5 Failing radiator fans
This can cause the engine to overheat when it doesn’t have enough cooling from the radiator. It’s also important to check your fan switch or relay and make sure that it’s working properly. If you have a newer vehicle, you’ll probably have a low-current relay that could be on its way out. To replace these fans, there are several options available, such as a direct replacement type or an electric fan replacement.
#6 Failing thermostat housing
The coolant in the cooling system also needs to have a place to get out of the engine. If there’s a failure with the thermostat housing, it could cause your engine to overheat and have other failures. This can be caused by corrosion, so it’s important to check that part of the engine regularly.
#7 Air in the system
This is always possible, especially if cracks or holes in your radiator or hoses exist. If they allow air to enter, the engine will overheat, especially in older cars.
#8 Oil contamination
It’s very important that you check your oil if you don’t have a coolant flush on an annual basis. Oil contamination can be caused by many things, including bleeding the air system before changing your oil and fuel. And when you’re changing the oil, it’s important to make sure that there isn’t any debris in it or any of the old oil left over. This can prevent your engine from starting or overheating it.
Even if you change your coolant and make sure that there’s no debris in it, if the system is clogged with water and you don’t flush out the system, then you’re still going to have an overheating engine.
What to Do when Your Engine Overheats
If your engine overheats, it’s important that you find the reason and get it fixed as soon as possible. The longer it goes, the more damage you could be causing to the engine, including severe overheating. If this happens, then you’ll probably have to replace the engine or at least parts of it.
However, when you’re unable to reach a mechanic, what actions can you take to save your vehicle? Here are some useful tips you can try:
1. Turn off the AC
Always turn off the AC when you’re running it because it could be pushing out excessive amounts of coolant. If this happens, then your engine will overheat faster.
When you have to drive with the AC on in certain hot climates, always fill up your radiator with water and run a hose from the radiator to the fan so that if it’s overheating, it will have enough water to circulate through the system.
You can also try using a fan at your radiator instead of running the AC to continue cooling.
2. Pulling over
The second action you should take is to pull over to assess the situation. Turn off the car and let it cool down for about 15 minutes. Check the temperature gauge to see if the temperature goes down. If it’s not, call for help.
While waiting for the car to cool down, you should open all the windows to release the heat inside the vehicle.
NOTE: DON’T open the hood immediately as this can cause more harm, so avoid touching the engine when it’s still hot.
3. Add more coolant if available
If the temperature gauge is still rising, then you should call for help. You can usually find coolant to add to your system by asking a mechanic or by visiting a service station if you have one in your area. However, you might have to do this if the engine overheats again after adding the coolant.
Another thing you can do is add water to your radiator and let it sit overnight and try restarting your vehicle again in the morning. Of course, if you’re not in a hurry.
4. Turn on the heat if you still have to go
Turning off the AC and turning on the heat will help to draw the heat out of the engine. If you can still drive, then don’t worry about being uncomfortable. You can turn on the defroster to help get rid of any steam and reduce the amount of water in the system. If it’s not working, find a mechanic as soon as possible.
Tips to Prevent a Car from Overheating
Preventing your engine from overheating is actually simpler than you think. You have to learn a few tips and tricks, some of which you’ve probably heard before and others that might be news to you.
1. Check the coolant regularly
It’s important that you check your coolant regularly. This will allow you to notice if there’s something wrong with the coolant or if there’s a leak in the system. Of course, some coolants are more reliable than others and can last longer.
If the vehicle is new, it might need to be flushed out because these newer engines tend to have a different type of coolant than older cars.
2. Keep a spare bottle of coolant in the car
If you’re going on long road trips, it’s important to keep a spare bottle of coolant in your car. This way, if the engine overheats and you need more coolant, you’ll have it with you.
When you go on a road trip, make sure that your oil is at the proper levels and that your cooling system is operating as efficiently as possible.
3. Check the car’s thermostat often when driving
Keep an eye on your coolant level while you’re driving. If it gets low, you should check the thermostat and ensure it’s working properly.
4. Don’t overuse the AC on very hot days
The AC has a cooling function to help keep the engine cool. If you use it too much, then it can overheat and melt the water jacket, which might fail the engine.
There are a number of factors that can cause the engine to overheat. If you have an overheating engine, then you shouldn’t keep driving since it could damage it and cause other problems that can be very expensive to fix. The best thing to do is to pull over and turn off the air conditioner or let the engine cool before you start driving again. You also want to make sure that you’re not constantly overworking your engine, as this can even lead to damage.
Hi there! I’m Naomi O’Colman. I’ve got years of experience working at an auto repair shop here in Texas under my belt. On top of that, ever since I was a kid I’ve been passionate about the auto industry. Since I’ve joined the team at automotivegearz.com I’ve been enthusiastically sharing my passion and insights with my readers. I’m dedicated to delivering high quality content and helping you stay up to date with the latest automotive trends and products out there!