What To Do If Your Car Overheats

An overheating car

An overheating car is a serious problem and one that can happen all too rapidly in the middle of a Las Vegas summer. If you don’t react quickly, overheating can cause serious damage to your engine, potentially resulting in a costly repair bill.

Engine overheats can be scary, especially for first time drivers, steam pouring from under the hood and blinking alarms isn’t something any driver wants to see. To help you react quickly, and in the correct manner, we’ve put together an easy to follow guide for what to do if your car overheats.

Turn Off Your Engine

Most cars will show fault symbols on the dashboard and even produce audio alarms when your engine is overheating. As soon as you notice these, make it a priority to find a safe spot to get off the road and turn off your engine. The longer the engine is running the more heat it will generate, which will significantly increase the chance of engine damage occurring.

Let It Cool

Once you’ve found a place to stop, it can be tempting to get out and immediately start looking under the hood for a solution to your overheating problem. While lifting the hood to cool the engine is advisable, don’t be tempted to go poking around until the engine has had a chance to cool. Overheated engine parts can cause serious injuries and there is always the possibility that the overheating has been caused by the weather conditions and your car just needs some time for the engine to cool down.

Don’t Touch The Radiator Cap

Not touching any part of an overheated engine is advisable, but it is especially dangerous to remove the radiator cap immediately after stopping. Depending on the problem, your radiator may be full of steam and boiling liquid. Removing the radiator cap will release the pressure in the radiator, causing the steam and heated liquid to come boiling out, potentially giving you severe burns in the process.

Pay attention to the information the car’s warning lights are giving you and wait until the engine has had sufficient time to cool down before attempting to remove the radiator cap.

Top Up Your Antifreeze

Once your engine has had sufficient time to cool down, check the radiator to see if the fluid levels are correct. If your radiator is low then refill it with antifreeze. If you live in a hot state, like Nevada, you should keep antifreeze on hand for just such a situation, but if you don’t have any then water will do in an emergency.

Find The Cause

Once you’ve filled the radiator it’s time to look for any obvious causes of your car overheating. Leaks in the coolant system are a common cause of overheating, so check your hoses, seals and radiator for signs of wearing or cracking. If the fault is obvious you can take the car to a mechanic or replace the part yourself. If you can’t find an obvious reason for the the fault then it is still a good idea to take your car in for a service and ask for your coolant system to be checked for faults.

Preventative Measures

The best way to stop your car from overheating is preventative maintenance. Always make sure the antifreeze in your radiator is topped up to the required levels, especially during the summer months in hotter states. Oil changes are a vital part of routine maintenance and help prevent heat building up because of unnecessary friction. Regular professional check-ups on your car are also a good idea, as is asking the mechanic to check your coolant system for signs of wear or damage and to make sure all of the engine’s fans are in working order. Making sure your car is as well maintained as possible is the best way to stop it overheating.

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Written by:
Rich Heinrich
Master Instructor, Emeritus

Instructor and Office Administrator

Frankie works and karaoke's in Las Vegas but his out-of-doors-heart is still out East. Born in Boston, Frankie loves the snow and mountains. As an avid snowboarder, Frankie has never seen a snow day he didn't LOVE! A graduate from…Read More