What should I do if my car overheats?


car gauges that indicate engine is overheatingAn overheating engine is a major inconvenience, as well as a sign of a problem. Cars and trucks don’t normally overheat; here’s what to do if you’re stranded by an inconvenient overheating engine.

Turn off your vehicle.

When you see the temperature gauge on your dash dipping into the danger zone, pull over wherever you are and turn off the engine. Your engine needs to cool down completely before you can get on the road again; you can open the hood to try and hasten the process but be very careful so you don’t get burned. If you are worried that the problem needs professional attention, call a tow truck.

Don’t touch the radiator cap (right away).

DO NOT REMOVE THE RADIATOR CAP until the engine has had a chance to cool. The exact time it takes to cool depends on the outdoor temperature; it can take a few minutes in the winter and up to a half hour during the steamiest summer weather. If you remove the radiator cap before the engine cools, hot fluid can boil up over the cap and cause severe burns.

When you do remove the radiator cap (after the engine has cooled), use a cloth when you unscrew the cap. Pull the cap off quickly to avoid any hot fluid. Check your fluid levels and refill if needed.

Watch your gauges.

Once you’ve made sure that your fluid levels are at the correct level, watch your gauges to make sure your engine doesn’t overheat again. Turn off your AC if the temperature gauge heads into the danger zone, and turn on the heat if the gauge keeps creeping up. If it overheats, it’s time to make an appointment with your mechanic to find the source of the problem; you don’t want to have to stop and start every time it overheats OR cause more damage to the engine.

Head to your local repair shop.

It’s not common for your car to overheat; modern cars don’t normally overheat unless the fluids are dry or there is a problem. Make an appointment to get your car into the mechanic  to get your car checked or talk to your mechanic if you have an oil change scheduled.

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