What Causes a Car to Overheat?
July 05, 2018
Some things like it hot. Your car’s engine is not one of those things.
An overheated engine can lead to expensive damage and create a frustrating situation for the unfortunate driver.
We don’t want you to become that unfortunate driver.
That’s why you should know the causes of overheating, what to do if it does happen, and how to prevent it.
Will Extreme Temperatures Cause My Car to Overheat?
Many drivers like to blame the bright sun and extreme summer temperatures for their overheated engine woes.
Is this true or false?
It’s false. The cooling systems in cars today are liquid-based and rarely impacted by outdoor temperature.
So while the sun doesn’t make your car easy to sit in at the end of the work day, it’s still safe to drive.
Common Causes of Overheating
So if it’s not the sun, what’s to blame for your overheated engine?
1. There’s a Leak in Your Cooling System
Coolant is your engine’s best friend. It needs a consistent amount of coolant to keep from overheating.
A leak in your cooling system not only lets coolant out: it lets air in, creating an airlock that blocks whatever coolant you have left. Without something absorbing the heat, your engine gets way too hot and overheats.
2. Your Thermostat Fails to Operate
The thermostat is on the instrument panel of your car, and reacts to heat.
Once the coolant absorbs enough heat from the engine and reaches a certain temperature, the thermostat opens a valve to the radiator. This is where the coolant releases the heat it’s absorbed.
But if the thermostat doesn’t ‘open the door’, the hot coolant just keeps circulating, getting hotter and hotter.
3. There are Blockages in Your Cooling System
Anything that reduces the flow of coolant to your engine will cause overheating. Blockages are most often caused by dirt and mineral buildup.
4. You Have a Broken Water Pump
Cars don’t use water anymore, but the term stuck around to describe the pump that circulates coolant through your engine.
Think of it like the heart of your car, pushing the liquid necessary to keep it healthy and happy. But if a component inside the water pump wears down or breaks, it’ll stop circulating coolant. Your car will quickly overheat after that.
5. You Used the Wrong Coolant Solution
Believe it or not, the wrong coolant solution could cause your car to overheat. This is most common in the winter.
Coolant that isn’t concentrated enough can start to gel and stop flowing. It’s important to consult your owner’s manual and get the right coolant for your car.
6. Your Radiator Isn’t Working
Your radiator puts the cool in coolant. More specifically, it disperses the heat the coolant absorbs from your engine. But even the smallest crack in your radiator cap can cause problems big enough to overheat your engine.
What to Do When Your Car Overheats
You’ll know your car is overheating when you see the warning lights on your car’s instrument dashboard. This indicates that the temperature is too high for safe driving. You may also see steam start pouring out from under the hood.
If you see either of these things, you need to:
- Pull over
- Turn off your car
- Call us for help at 613-728-1908
It’s important that you pull over right away. In an overheated engine, the metal expands and melts, which causes expensive damage. Your warning lights are there to prevent serious damage from occurring.
After you’ve pulled over and turned off the car, don’t try to pop the hood and take a look. Your engine (and the hood) is going to be scorching hot, just like an oven. And you wouldn’t stick your hand in an oven before it’s had a chance to cool down.
The best and safest course of action is to have your vehicle towed to one of our 3 service locations. We’ll be able to identify the problem safely.
If you do have to open up the hood, wait for you car to cool down - about 30-45 minutes. Even then, don’t touch any engine parts yourself.
How to Prevent Your Car From Overheating in the Future
It’s an unpleasant, frustrating experience having your car overheat that we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. These are some tips to help keep your cool.
1. Have Your Coolant Checked at Every Oil Change
Coolant picks up dirt as it circulates, which is completely natural. But if you never change it, all that dirt is going to lead to a blockage.
We recommend having your coolant checked every time you have your oil changed at your maintenance appointments.
You should also have your coolant replaced according to the guidelines in your vehicle’s ownership manual.
2. Get Your Cooling System Inspected
Whether you’re coming in for a new windshield, a tire change, or a full-fledged service appointment, make sure to ask us about your cooling system.
We’ll inspect the radiator for defects, the coolant lines for leaks and blockages, and the water pump for operating issues.
If we find anything that’s cause for concern, we’ll walk you through your options.
3. Keep a Close Eye On Your Temperature Gauge
When you’re driving, don’t forget to keep an eye on the temperature gauge. While warning lights are apparent, you could save your car from getting to the overheating point by monitoring its temperatures.
Call Bemac If You Need a Helping Hand
If your car does overheat, we’ll be there to lend a hand - or rather, a tow.
We offer towing services to the entire Ottawa area. Save the number 613-728-1908 in your phone under ‘Bemac Towing’. That way we’re only one click away.
We’ll give you a professional quote on any mechanical repairs your engine needs, and get you back on the road safely.
We’d prefer to see you under happier circumstances: come to us to have your car thoroughly checked out for summer. We’ll help make you feel confident in your car, and protect you against any frustrating surprise breakdowns.
Book a Summer Service Appointment
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