You’re driving and suddenly notice white smoke coming from the hood of your car. It’s a sign that the engine is overheating. Overheating occurs when a vehicle’s engine is not working properly. Usually, something inside the cooling system is not allowing absorption, transportation, or release of the heat. With pistons moving the cylinders up and down for hours at a time, it can get pretty heated under the hood. It all becomes too much to bear sometimes and the car begins to overheat. So what do you do? Pull over or keep driving? How do you know if it’s serious?
Letting your car completely overheat is the quickest way to find yourself stranded on the side of the road and in need of a new car. Unless you want to waste money, it’s important to notice the warning signs that your car is about to overheat before it’s too late. Even when you’re in tune with your vehicle, an engine can overheat at a moment’s notice.
Here’s what to keep an eye out for:
Engine Temperature and Dashboard Warning Lights
Become familiar with the temperature gauge on your dashboard. Know what’s normal for your vehicle’s running engine temperature. If the gauge moves into the red zone or if a warning light comes on that says something like “engine hot” or “check engine,” take it seriously. When your check engine light comes on, it could be for many different reasons, but if it’s because of overheating, it’s important to address the issue right away to prevent engine damage.
Smoke under the Hood
A steady billow of steam coming from under your vehicle’s hood as you sit at a stoplight is a sign of a potentially serious problem. Smoke can have many causes. A leaking hose or radiator, a broken fan belt, a busted water pump — these all can happen out of nowhere. But no matter what the cause is, smoke means it’s crucial to pull over and make sure the engine doesn’t get any hotter.
Hoses, Thermostats and Other Parts
Malfunctioning parts in your engine can also cause it to overheat. Regular maintenance is a simple way to prevent problems. Checking hoses, thermostats and belts on a regularly scheduled basis costs much less than a new car or pricey repairs.
What to Do if the Engine Overheats
Other than pulling over and wishing your car wasn’t actually overheating, what else can you do if it does?
Disperse the heat. If you have to keep driving, roll down your windows and turn your heater all the way up. This takes some of the engine’s heat and disperses it, slowing the overheating problem. Hopefully, this will help you get to a place where you can pull over safely.
Make room. If you’re stuck in stop-and-go traffic, try to keep extra space between you and the car in front of you, so you can avoid stopping. Repeatedly applying the brakes adds to the overall heat the car experiences.
Lift the Hood Carefully.If you’re able to pull over, pop the hood with the lever inside the car. Don’t try to do it manually because you could burn yourself. Once you’ve popped the hood, the engine will cool down faster.
After lifting the hood, wait at least 30 minutes to do anything else. It can take some time for a hot engine to cool down. Don’t remove the radiator cap, especially if you’re seeing steam come from the engine. If you haven’t already called for help, this is the time to do it.
Call for a tow truck. There’s plenty of reasons your car may be overheating. There could be a coolant leak or you could have an electrical or mechanical problem. Unless you’ve got the tools and the experience to check otherwise, a tow truck is probably your best option.
See an Expert for Repairs
Unless you’re a certified mechanic, you’ll need to have the vehicle towed to a shop as soon as possible. It is important that your vehicle’s engine and cooling system be thoroughly inspected by a professional technician with any overheating condition. Unfortunately, the full extent of any engine damage may not become apparent for days, weeks, or even months afterwards. We have replaced engines on multiple vehicles where the driver thought they had only driven “a little ways” after detecting overheating conditions.
An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure in this case. Regular inspection of your car during our oil change services, along with adhering to your regularly scheduled maintenance, will reduce the risk of unforeseen problems with your vehicle’s systems.
Koester Automotive and Collision Center is always ready to help. Call right away and we’ll discuss your options.
The content contained in this article is for entertainment and informational purposes only and should not be used in lieu of seeking professional advice from a certified technician or mechanic. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein. Under no circumstances will we be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.