It’s rush hour, the freeway is packed, it's 90 degrees outside and the air conditioning is at full blast in the car. While most drivers are busy complaining about the stop and go traffic, they may not notice their car's temperature gauge edging past the middle line and slowly creeping toward ‘H’. Then the ‘check engine light’ comes on and the driver realizes they didn’t check their fluids last weekend like they were supposed to. Just as this comes to mind, the vehicle begins to lag and stutter and soon smoke plumes began to rise from underneath the hood of the car. Now they are stuck on the side of the road.
How Do Cars Overheat?
There are actually quite a few things that can lead a car to overheat. Luckily however, many of the ways cars overheat are often times fixable and even avoidable. As mentioned above, one way a car can overheat, is if not enough engine coolant is put into the vehicle, causing the remaining fluid to congeal and no longer circulate between the radiator and the engine. When the coolant is unable to circulate, it causes the engine to work harder and burn out. The engine congealed coolant can also form a blockage and prevent the radiator from fairly distributing the heat from the engine. Other possible factors that can cause a blockage are, a build up of inside or outside fluids, the thermostat’s flap refusing to open and close, and even an unknown or forgotten object getting lodged in the cooling system.
A car engine's cooling system is a very temperamental thing that should be kept an eye on, in order to sport potential leaks that can allow air to get inside the system and form a bubble, which in turn causes coolant fluid to be blocked from reaching where it needs to go.
Another leading cause of cars overheating, is a failed water pump. The cooling system inside a car relies on water to keep the vehicle at a reasonable temperature, and without it can lead a car to overheat within minutes.
Overheated Car Tips
With the dog days of summer in full effect, now is the time to brush up on what to do when a vehicle is overheated. Thankfully, AAMCO, an American transmission repair company, has a few tips on how drivers can prevent their car from overheating and what to do in case it does.
- “If the air conditioning is on, turn it off and roll down the windows.” Then, turn the car's heat on instead and roll down the windows to reroute some of the heat from the engine.
- If the car's temperature continues to rise, it’s best to turn on the hazard lights and maneuver the vehicle to a safe area. If the driver feels that the area they are in is not safe, AAMCO assures that a stop and go method until arriving at a safe destination is reasonable, as long as the driver waits long enough for the car to cool a bit before driving onward.
- Once a driver is in a well lit and safe space, they should take note of any possible smoke rising from the hood of the car and see if the hood feels extremely hot to the touch. This will help them determine if it is safe to open up the hood of the car and proceed to analyze if the engine or the radiator is the issue. However, touching anything is a big no-no until everything has cooled down.
- It should go without saying that an overheating car should be immediately fixed by a state licensed mechanic in order to prevent possible car fires and accidents. A driver could become anxious and distracted while driving and trying to handle the fact that their car is overheating, causing other drivers to panic or react rashly.
- It usually takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour for the engine and radiator to cool, after which, the driver can safely proceed to check the engine's coolant to see where the fluid level exactly is. If the coolant seems dangerously low or none seem to be inside, a 50/50 mixture of water and engine coolant is the best way to go.
- If the engine coolant level seems fine, the next place to look is the hoses. The hoses could have possibly been severed or have a leak. Look around for any puddles of fluid on the ground, and if that help find the leak, listen to see if any fluids are draining from the car.
- “Restart the car and check the temperature gauges on the dash.” Then, eyeball the temperature gauge to see if it still reads in the red. If not, proceed forward, but if it still reads that the car is hot, turn it off and wait a while for the vehicle to cool. After a while, if the car is still overheating, there are one of two possible explanations-either the temperature gauge is broken or the vehicle needs to be serviced.
Though these tips don't guarantee that inexperienced people will be able to fix an overheating car by themselves, without the help of a licensed professional, they may be good temporary suggestions that drivers can consider while waiting for a professional to come to their aid. At the very least, drives who are concerned that their car is overheated or sense that their motor vehicle is acting up while on the road, should immediately pull over, in order to avoid a car collision, and then call for help. The last thing drivers want is their car to stop in the middle of the highway or an intersection, bringing on the risk of becoming involved in a car accident.
An overheating car is not something to take lightly. Drivers should make sure to service their vehicles regularly, and especially when the 'check engine' light comes on, to prevent future wear and tear on car parts that can hinder a motor vehicle's performance. If you or anyone you know has been the victim of a car accident, call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC. Call us at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney today.