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What to Do When Your Car Overheats


Posted by Jose Alfaro

It’s been especially hot the past few days in Southern California, and a reasonable concern for many is what to do when one’s engine overheats.


Here are some steps to follow if your engine overheats:

1. Check for steam: Steam is bad, take it seriously. An indication that you’ve really got an overheating engine is the site of plumes of steam pouring out before your eyes. If you see any steam at all, proceed to Step 3.

2. Turn off your A/C, Turn on your heater: Older engines in particular are prone to mild overheating on hot days, especially when the air conditioner has bee running. Put your heater on full blast, which will transfer heat away from the engine. Of course, it will also transfer heat toward you, but your comfort is a less priority than the engines at this point.

3. Pull over and turn off your engine: When you find a safe place to stop, get there and kill the engine right away. Do not idle the engine while you’re collecting your thoughts. Engines have to work harder to keep cool at idle, so turn it off and then take that breath.

4. Pop the hood: Be careful, because very likely it’s hotter than usual under there. You’ll get a feel for this once you’ve pulled the hood release and the hood is slightly open. Only open the hood fully when you are confident it’s safe to do so.

5. Check coolant levels: Your engine should have a coolant reservoir in the vicinity of the radiator. This is usually made of plastic and thus most likely dangerously hot. Check the coolant level in this reservoir. If it’s normal, you’re in luck-chances are you’ve just got a malfunctioning temperature gauge. If there are no other signs of overheating, you can restart the engine and proceed with caution. If it’s low or empty, however, there’s probably a coolant leak somewhere. Calling for roadside assistance is strongly advised here.

6. If you need to keep driving: Wait until you’re certain the engine is cool, protect your hand with a thick glove or rag, and twist off the radiator cap. If the temperature starts rising again, you’ll have to pull over and repeat the process. Incidentally, by no means should you view this as a long-term solution-your engine needs professional help, so get your mechanic on the job as soon as you can.

This content was provided by DriverSide.

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