Overheating occurs no matter how modern or reliable your car is. As outside temperatures climb during the warm summer months, temperatures inside your vehicle’s engine bay can near 200 degrees. In that type of heat, it’s important to keep your engine cool.
Your car’s cooling system is usually up to the task. But if the needle of your temperature gauge rises or you spot steam coming from under your hood, your car could be overheating.
When your car overheats, it often means something is wrong with one of the cooling system components, which include your fan, radiator, thermostat, water pumps, hoses and coolant.
Troubleshooting an overheated engine is far easier in cars equipped with a temperature gauge. A car with only an “overheating” warning sign may be hard to assess how effective corrective measures will be.
CAR JASOOS lists below the how to handle engine overheating.
- The first thing to do:
Driving your car when it’s overheating can cause serious – and sometimes permanent – damage to your engine, so it’s best to stop driving as soon as possible. Pull over and away from oncoming traffic and once you come to a halt, switch the engine off immediately but position the key in “ignition ON” mode. After parking your car, open your hood to let excess heat escape – then, stay back to let things cool down. Ensure nothing is blocking the front of the radiator (e.g., plastic bag or newspaper). Be extremely careful and remember that a hot engine can spew boiling coolant or steam under high pressure without warning. If you’re not comfortable opening the hood yourself, there’s no shame in calling for help. No matter what: Never touch a hot engine with your bare hands. Wait for the heat to subside or call for professional assistance.
Standing still means that there is no airflow to aid cooling, so components have to work harder when the vehicle is at a standstill. The steps above help to minimise damage.
- Radiator with no fluid:
- Fluid levels below the minimum mark typically indicate a low radiator as well. Always make sure you keep your coolant topped up. If the fluid level is below the minimum mark, there is a good chance that your radiator is running low too. While you can top up this overflow tank when the engine is hot, in some cars (mostly European models), the tank is pressurised. If there is a warning around the lid, or the lid needs to be screwed off (not flipped open), you can be sure that it’s pressurised. Don’t open it in that case; wait for the engine to cool off.
- The radiator needs to be topped up with coolant and water. Do not remove the radiator cap while the engine is hot. The environment is like a pressure cooker there, which could result in severe burns. Therefore, wait around for some time until the heat is diffused. Once your engine is cool, use a towel to slowly remove the cap. While unscrewing the cap, the cap might release steam and pressure. Therefore, proceed slowly.
- Fill up the radiator if it is dry with coolant and water if you cannot source coolant, use only water as a temporary fix. Most cars use a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze, but you can just add room temperature water as a temporary fix. If you are filling the radiator, turn the engine on first. The engine block must be resurfaced if you do not wish to end up with a cracked engine. Slowly add coolant or water to the radiator as you run the engine.
- What if your cooling fan broke down?
- A radiator that’s bone dry is unlikely to be found on a modern vehicle. You need to find out if the fan was working fine when you stopped the vehicle and parked the car in “ignition ON” mode. Run the engine once you have replenished the radiator to double-check. Upon reaching your car’s operating temperature, the cooling fan should automatically turn on after a few minutes of idling. If not, that’s your issue. Alternatively, you can try turning on your air conditioner. Most (but not all) vehicles will start the radiator cooling fan when the air conditioning is turned ON.
- If you cruise on open roads, your engine may still stay cool even if the cooling fan malfunctions. Traffic, on the other hand, will strain your cooling system, and you should avoid bumper-to-bumper conditions at all costs. Make sure your radiator is full and you drive only on open roads. Maintain the highest gear and lowest rpm level possible. When you come to an abrupt halt, shut off your engine. Make sure you pay close attention to your temperature gauge when driving. When the meter reaches half or more, you should pull your car over and shut it off.
- In the event of a blown fan fuse, replace them immediately.
- How to use the heater trick?
While you may be tempted to turn on the air conditioning, this is counterintuitive. Swing your air-conditioner temperature dial all the way to the red zone and the blower speed to full. Turning your heat on full blast can actually help disperse the heat coming from your engine.
- Slide down all windows as the cabin will understandably become very hot.
- Make sure “fresh air” is selected. Do NOT turn your air-con compressor ON.
- Move the air vents direction away from you, or direct air toward the windscreen.
- Switch the engine OFF whenever you come to a halt.
- The heater trick will keep your engine temperature within the safe zone.
The steps described here could just get your vehicle to a repair garage without much permanent damage.
- Radiator Leakage:
You may not be a mechanic, but some cooling system issues aren’t difficult to identify. Look at your radiator and hoses to see if you can find leaking coolant. Most modern cars have radiators that last their entire lives. However, rust or damage can result in leakage. Most of the time, steam is emitted from the bonnet when these leaks are occurring.
- By adding a spoon of Haldi (turmeric powder) to water when filling up, minor leaks in radiators can be stopped. The goal of this is only to get you to the nearest service station. Get the haldi out of the radiator at your earliest convenience.
- If the engine and radiator have cooled down, you can apply m-seal to the leaky area. As long as you get to a garage, it should still work. M-seal is also easily accessible in smaller towns.
- You can wrap a generous amount of electrical tape around a leaky hose pipe. In case the leak is at the edge of the pipe, try cutting off the damaged section while still leaving enough length for the pipe to be repaired.
- Know when to call a mechanic:
- If your car was low on coolant, you can start it back up after topping it off. Keep a close eye on your temperature gauge to ensure that it is in a safe range. If you found a coolant leak or your coolant was full, you may have a more complex cooling system issue and it’s time to call your mechanic.
- If the steps listed so far didn’t help, you should have the car towed to a competent garage right away. Do NOT drive with your temperature needle in the red as it will destroy your engine.
- The mechanic may suggest removing the faulty thermostat as a temporary quick fix if he nails it down to the thermostat. It will keep your car running cooler than usual, but excessive heat is bad.
Some other causes of overheating are a faulty pressure cap (unlikely if you are using OEM parts), a snapped fan belt (typically on older cars), a blown head gasket, an incorrect engine timing setting, or a faulty sensor.
- Upon returning home:
The remedies listed above are merely suggestions to get you out of a sticky situation. You should have your vehicle thoroughly examined at a competent garage as soon as possible. Furthermore, we did not intend for 100% water to be used as a permanent solution. It is recommended that you flush out your radiator and fill it up with a coolant. Last but not least, flush your radiator every two years.