Your car’s engine can overheat due to multiple reasons. It can happen anytime, anywhere.
Whether you are facing recurrent overheating issues or drive an old car that’s quite likely to overheat down the road, you will find this article useful.
What to do when your car overheats?
As soon as you get the overheating warning light, pull over, turn off the engine and pop the hood. Your engine won’t sustain excess heat and might choke up if you continued to drive. Note: Popping the hood will let the heat escape quickly.
After pulling over, give your car at least five minutes to cool down before you start looking for the fault.
First of all, check the coolant level in the radiator and reservoir. If the radiator is running dry, top off with water for the time being and drive to the nearest mechanic to have it diagnosed. Or you can diagnose on the spot if you are not in a hurry.
Your radiator ran out of coolant means there’s a leakage in the system. Fill the radiator with water and look closely. There may be a leakage in the hoses, radiator tank or the throttle body. You need not worry about the coolant leaking from the throttle body if it’s been bypassed.
If you can’t spot the drip, the coolant must be leaking internally, into the engine’s combustion chamber. But why would that happen?
Your engine might have overheated due to some reason, other than low coolant. With the engine running hot continuously, the head gasket may have blown. A head gasket sits on top of the engine block to isolate the coolant, engine cylinders and exhaust system from each other. It has rubber seals that melt away when the engine runs hotter, allowing the coolant and engine oil to mix up.
If there’s no external coolant leakage, pull out the dipstick to check the condition of the oil. If it has turned milky or the dipstick has froth on it, that would be a tell-all.
What if the coolant level hasn’t dropped?
Once you rule out the possibility of low coolant, the next thing to look for is the cooling fan. Due to a bad fuse or relay, the cooling fan won’t kick in when required. As a result, the hot coolant circulating in the system fails to dissipate the engine’s heat. Replace the fan relay to see if it solves the problem.
If the fan relay is working as it should, the next thing to look for is the thermostat.
A thermostat is a spring-assisted mechanical component that regulates the flow of coolant in and out of the engine block. If it’s stuck close, the hot coolant will remain inside the engine block and won’t be able to circulate through the radiator where it cools off. This causes overheating. Replacing the thermostat can solve the problem.
If the thermostat is working fine, check the radiator.
Over time and with use, the sludge build-up inside the radiator core can obstruct the coolant flow; thus, leading to engine overheating. Flushing the radiator can solve the problem if the sludge has not hardened yet. Also, older radiators tend to chip and crack, causing coolant leakage. If it can’t be flushed or fixed, buying a new radiator would be the best bet. Buying it from the dealership will cost you more than it would if you bought it online at a discounted price from PartsGeek.
Overheating issues shouldn’t be taken lightly. And the best way to prevent these issues is to check coolant level regularly and be vigilant about the warning light. Your car’s ECU is smarter than you. When it tells you something’s wrong, pay heed and contact your nearest mechanic for diagnosis.