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What To Do If Your Car Is Overheating

A man peers under the hood of his car.

Hot summer weather can create problems for your car. In particular, when the temperature rises, it can put your vehicle at an increased risk of overheating.

How can you tell if your car is overheating, and what should you do to handle the issue? Let’s take a look.

What Is Overheating?If your car is overheating, it's essential to let the engine cool down.

Your car’s engine has a temperature range in which it delivers optimal performance. If the engine’s temperature hits an extreme that’s higher or lower than this range, it can have a negative impact on your vehicle’s performance. Overheating occurs when the engine’s temperature exceeds the upper level of its ideal range.

The engine temperature gauge on your car’s dash will let you know if you have a problem with overheating. In its most extreme form, overheating can cause steam to pour out from under the car’s hood.

What Causes Your Car’s Engine to Overheat?

Hot weather can make it more likely for your car’s engine to overheat, but there are other factors that also play a part in this problem. For instance, overheating can occur if your car’s coolant levels are low or if there’s a problem with a component of your car’s cooling system, such as the thermostat, radiator or heater core.

Why Is Overheating Bad for Your Car?

If your car’s engine overheats, it can be a huge inconvenience. It can impact your car’s ability to function and force you to pull over to the side of the road, and you may even have to get the vehicle towed.

But the risks associated with an overheated car engine don’t end there. If you operate the engine before it’s had a chance to cool down fully, you could cause costly damage to your car. For example, doing so could lead to expensive head gasket repairs or even cause your car’s engine to seize completely.

What You Should Do if Your Car’s Engine Overheats

Here are some steps to follow if your car’s engine overheats:

  1. Kill the air conditioning and turn on the heat. Your car’s air conditioning places stress on the engine, causing it to generate more heat, so turning off the A/C is a good idea if you want to cool down the engine. Your car’s heater, on the other hand, pulls heat away from the engine, so turning it on can help reduce the engine’s temperature.
  2. Pull over. The most effective way of cooling down the engine is to turn it off. Park in a safe spot, and let the engine cool for about 15 minutes.
  3. Gauge the car’s coolant levels. If the coolant is low, you may have to top it off to lower the heat under your hood. This liquid is a 50/50 mix of water and coolant, and it should only be added once your car’s engine has cooled down.
  4. Stay put until it has cooled down. Then call a tow truck, or drive slowly to the nearest NAPA AutoCare location while keeping a close eye on engine temps.

To optimize your car’s engine life, always avoid driving with an overheated engine. Be sure to remain vigilant at all times for signs that your car is overheating so you can handle the situation safely if it comes up.

Check out all the engine cooling system products available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on what to do if your car is overheating, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photos courtesy of Pexels.

Warren Clarke View All

I'm a writer and editor who's a regular contributor with the New York Daily News and Carfax, and my content has appeared in over 20 publications. I've written content that covers industries such as automotive, medical, insurance, healthcare, real estate, plumbing, pest control, dental and hospitality.

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