Your Car Is Overheating. Now What?

Your Car Is Overheating. Now What?

( – Seeing someone stranded on the side of the road can be distressing, but it’s even worse when it’s you! You’re sitting at a red light and boom! Steam starts to rise out from under the hood. You can’t just keep going, hoping it will go away. It likely won’t, so what do you do? And will it be a cheap and easy fix?

Pull Over

Now is the time to get off the highway and move to a safe place away from traffic. Shut the engine off and let it cool down a bit. This allows the motor to dissipate the high temperature and hopefully prevent any major internal damage from occurring. You may need to have the vehicle towed home or to a secure location for further inspection.

Check Fluid Levels

Once the car’s engine has cooled and you are prepared to take a look under the hood, it’s time to check fluid levels. AutoZone stresses that before you check anything, be sure the engine has been off for at least 30 minutes. Failure to do so could result in severe burns to your hands or face.

Locate the radiator cap and coolant reservoir. The radiator is near the front of the engine compartment and the reservoir to the side. Is the reservoir empty? If so, this is a definite sign of low coolant levels. Slowly unscrew the cap while using a cloth and tilt the cap outward so no fluids burn you. Is it full or empty? The issue could be a tiny leak that has drained the radiator, causing it to leak. Fill it with water or coolant temporarily and then take it to a mechanic for further inspection and repair.

If only the radiator cap is missing, simply replace it, and that should correct the problem.

Are the Fans Running?

There should be two coolant fans behind the radiator facing the engine. Once the engine temp rises, these fans turn on. If you don’t see or hear them moving while the engine is running, they may need to be replaced.

Check the Thermostat

The thermostat is what controls the internal temperatures of the engine. It’s essential because it gives the signal for the fans to turn on. A simple test, according to Napa Know How, is to remove the radiator cap and look inside. If the coolant is swirling immediately, the thermostat is stuck open. If the coolant is stagnant, it’s stuck and needs to be replaced.

If you are handy, you can easily replace it by locating the thermostat housing at the bottom of the radiator hose. Remove the bolts and thermostat and replace. Add fluid to the top of the radiator if needed.

Combustion Leak Test

If everything else checks out, it’s time to do a combustion leak test. Construction Manuals recommends going to an auto parts store for this quick test. Once the bulb dye enters into the engine, it will reveal if there are exhaust gases present that may signify a leak or damage to the engine and head gaskets. Have the vehicle inspected by a certified mechanic.

If the car you’re driving is newer, is a lease or under warranty, you’ll want to call the dealership for assistance. If you are mechanically inclined or just want to DIY to save money, these checkpoints are a must! You’ll save some green fixing the problem yourself, but best of all, you’ll have the satisfaction of a job well done!

~Here’s to Your Success!

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