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Why Is My Engine Overheating & What to Do?

Why Is My Engine Overheating & What to Do?

Car Engine Overheating

An overheated engine is no fun, whether you’re about to head to the cottage for a well-deserved vacation or stuck in downtown Ottawa’s rush hour traffic. Overheating is not just an inconvenience, though. It can lead to serious damage… and expensive repairs.

Find out when your car is in danger of overheating and what to do.

Signs Your Car Is Overheating


When steam starts pouring from under your hood, rest assured something is very wrong — namely, your radiator is boiling over. Steam is the most dramatic sign of an overheated car, particularly because it’s easily confused with smoke.


Another clue your engine is overheating is when your air conditioner abruptly stops working. You could also have an issue with your air conditioner only blowing hot air.

Temperature Gauge Change or Warning Light

Has your temperature gauge moved to the red area or is the warning light signalling “H”? Either is a clear sign of trouble.

Strange Odours

A burnt smell (a sign of an oil leak) is also a clue but watch out for a sweet scent as well; that could mean your car is leaking coolant. A phenomenon often described as a “hot” smell is likely caused by melting rubber, plastic, and resin components. Help is needed!

Reasons Your Car Is Overheating

1. You Don’t Have Enough Coolant

Your engine’s best friend is coolant; a consistent amount will keep it from overheating. However, coolant depletes by evaporation or leakage.

A leak in your cooling system not only lets coolant out but also lets air in, creating an airlock that blocks whatever coolant you have left. Without anything to absorb its heat, your engine gets way too hot — in other words, overheats.

2. Your Thermostat Isn’t Working

Once the coolant absorbs enough heat from the engine and reaches a certain temperature, your car’s thermostat opens a valve to the radiator. This opening is where the coolant releases the heat it’s absorbed.

But if the thermostat doesn’t open the valve, the hot coolant just keeps circulating, growing hotter and hotter.

3. There’s a Problem With Your Coolant Hose

The hose which carries your car’s coolant may get blocked or detached, preventing proper flow. Dirt and mineral buildup often cause these blockages..

4. You Have a Broken Water Pump

Though cars don’t use water anymore, the term is still used to describe the pump that circulates coolant through your engine. If a water pump component wears out or breaks, it’ll stop circulating coolant. Your car will quickly overheat when this happens.

5. You Used the Wrong Coolant Solution

Believe it or not, the wrong coolant solution (anti freeze + water) could cause your car to overheat. Coolant that isn’t concentrated enough can start to gel and stop flowing — most commonly in winter. Be sure 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. Specifically, it disperses the heat that the coolant absorbs from your engine. Even the smallest crack in your radiator cap, though, can cause problems big enough to overheat your engine.

What to Do if Your Car Overheats

1. Switch off the air conditioning to lighten the load on your engine.

2. Turn on your heater. Strange but true! You’ll draw heat into the passenger compartment, away from the engine. After a few minutes, your warning light and temperature gauge may return to normal. If so, consider yourself lucky! If not, proceed to Step 3.

3. Pull over in a safe spot and turn off your engine.

4. Call Bemac for towing service anywhere in the Ottawa area.

5. Do not try to open the hood, or you’ll risk being splattered with 121-degree Celsius steam. It will take at least 15 minutes to cool down.

How Bemac Helps Prevent Overheating

1. Schedule regular tuneups and safety checks with Bemac according to your auto manufacturer’s recommendations … and any time you notice signs of a potential problem.

2. Have Bemac’s professional mechanics check your coolant with every oil change.

3. Request a regular inspection of your cooling system. We’ll take care of any mechanical repair that’s needed.

4. Ask us to replace your thermostat if it is damaged.