Overheated Car? Here's What to Do
No doubt you’ve seen this before. A car pulled over to the side of the road, the hood lifted up, possibly a bit of steam pouring out, and somebody standing nearby looking very frustrated.
Cars usually overheat because the coolant (aka antifreeze) level is too low. Proper coolant levels must be maintained to keep the engine and radiator operating properly. But what if you’ve been keeping up with your car’s maintenance schedule and getting your fluid levels, hoses and various components checked regularly? Unfortunately, an engine can still overheat when you least expect it.
The certified mechanics at Best Western Transmission have put together a list of what to do if this happens to you.
Sometimes, it’s not clear how serious a car issue is. But when it comes to overheating, immediate action is usually called for. Continuing to drive your car when the cooling system isn’t working properly could cause serious, and, in some cases, permanent damage. So as soon as you get a warning light on your dash indicating there’s a problem, the temperature gauge goes into the Hot/Red zone, you detect a sweet or burning smell, or you see steam under the hood, you should pull over to a safe location and turn the car off completely (don’t let it idle). If you have to keep driving for awhile, you should drive as slowly as possible to help the engine cool down.
Turn Off the AC
You should turn off the air conditioner. In fact, if you turn on the heater it might help pull some heat away from the car’s engine. If it’s summertime, roll down all the windows so you don’t end up sitting in a sauna.
Let the Car Cool Down
You may be anxious to get where you’re going, but once you’re able to stop the car, you must let it cool down. Most people know they shouldn’t touch or remove the radiator cap when the car is hot, but if the cooling system is having a problem, it could be dangerous to even open the hood. If there is steam, it can burn you, so wait until all of it has dissipated and the engine has cooled. The gauge on your dash will allow you to monitor the engine’s temperature. In some cars, this gauge is always visible; in others, you will have to turn the ignition to the “on” or “accessory” position to see it.
Once the engine has cooled down and the temperature gauge has moved out of the Hot/Red zone, which usually takes about 15 minutes, check the coolant reservoir tank. It is best to loosen the cap slightly to release any built-up pressure before opening it completely. If the level is low, and you happen to have a jug of antifreeze in your trunk, you can fill it up. If you don’t have coolant, you can use water as a temporary fix.
Get the Car Checked Out
If the above activities cool the car down – there is no more steam and the dashboard warnings return to normal – you should be able to drive safely to one of our Colorado Springs locations so we can find out what caused the initial problem. There could be a blown head gasket, radiator leak, broken fan, loose, cracked or blocked hose, or a problem with the water pump or thermostat.
If you can’t fix the car even temporarily, just give us a call at Best Western Transmission so that we can get the car towed.
Overheating is your car’s way of waving a red flag. It is telling you something is wrong. Whether the cause is big or small, it’s best to get it properly diagnosed and corrected as soon as possible so you can prevent further problems down the road.