6 Signs of Car Overheating [with Solutions]
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The most obvious sign of an overheated car is the steam coming out of your engine. But if you check for oil and coolant puddles regularly, it does not have to get to that point and your engine can still be saved.
When you drive with an overheated engine for too long, you may cause serious damage to your car. Anytime you start your car, moving parts inside your engine create friction and therefore a lot of heat is generated.
Oil is keeping your engine lubricated to avoid excessive friction, but the coolant’s job is to cool it down. If your coolant is leaking, this system will not function properly and your car will become overheated.
The following is what you can check for if the overheated engine is suspected:
- Coolant leak somewhere. You can notice either coolant on the ground or the necessity to keep on refilling it.
- Radiator hose. It should NOT be soft to the touch. If it’s old enough (7-10 years), it could also have heavy buildup inside that would block the coolant flow.
- Pressure in your hoses. Before looking at other possible problems, do a pressure test to find leaks.
- Problem with the cooling fan. If your car seems to be overheating at low speeds or stoplights, check the cooling fan. If you have your air conditioning ON, try shutting it OFF to see if the temperature goes down.
- Problem with the radiator. If your car seems to be overheating at high speeds or on highways, you either don’t have good airflow or radiator pipes are clogged.
- Thermostat. This is the last thing to check for because this is a very rare problem.
More information is in the video below:
Now, let’s review some of the common overheating signs:
Symptom #1. Coolant leak
When you get to your parking space and notice a coolant puddle on the ground, this could be an indication that “if you don’t have an overheating problem yet, you will have it soon enough!”
These are common reasons for the coolant leak:
- A blown head gasket.
- Hole in your radiator.
- A leak from a hose at connection points.
Regardless of where the leak came from, it will result in a lower coolant level and will decrease the cooling of your engine. When your engine is not cooled down properly, you will notice that is not performing as it used to and at some point, it will start overheating.
This symptom is difficult to detect because we don’t usually have time to keep on looking for leaks under our car or we can miss it when it gets dark. But this problem is relatively easy to fix or at least maintain at no harm level.
Just refill the missing coolant and keep on doing that until you find some time to see a mechanic.
Symptom #2. The gauge indicates a high temperature
Coolant temperature gauges should show around 195 to 220 degrees F (or 90 to 104 degrees C). If you have a gauge without numbers, it should NOT be in the red area:
During a very hot day, it is normal for your temperature gauge to show higher readings than normal. On the other hand, if the temperature starts going up while you drive, it means that excessive heat is being generated in your engine and you will have a big problem soon!
Symptom #3. The temperature light is flashing
The purpose of this flashing light is to alert the driver and get him or her to pay attention to the temperature gauge. It will come up when the engine starts overheating, but unfortunately in some models, it is the last thing you see before you’ve done a lot of damage to your engine.
** Warning! This indicator checks the coolant temperature of your engine. If you have a big leak, it will have nothing to check and its readings will be inaccurate.
Symptom #4. You hear a ticking noise
An overheated engine makes a ticking noise when the engine oil doesn’t efficiently lubricate the rotating parts. The reason for this is when oil is overheated, it becomes thin and loses its lubricating qualities.
When metal components are rubbing against each other they start deteriorating quickly and will stop working very soon. If you have a tick coming from your motor, check the oil level immediately!
Symptom #5. Something is burning…
If you notice a burning smell, it is a sure sign of an overheated engine! When an engine overheats, materials like rubber, plastic, and resin inside your engine start to melt.
Oil and leaking coolant could be burned as well. Along with odors, the hood of your car will be hot to the touch.
Symptom #6. Steam is coming from the engine
When you see steam coming out of your engine, you probably will not want to drive much longer! This is happening because of the boiling coolant inside your engine.
The pressure is built within the cooling system due to overheating and the coolant escapes in the form of steam. We made this point the last one because it is the easiest one to detect.
Watch this video for more ways to troubleshoot your vehicle:
If you notice that your vehicle is not performing up to par, immediately check your temperature gauge! If you notice weird smells or steam coming out of your engine, pull to the side, turn OFF your engine, and immediately call for assistance.
Do NOT try to raise your hood right away! There is a lot of pressure that developed under your hood due to excess heat. Wait for the engine to cool down before trying to check anything! Touching any metal surfaces or trying to open a coolant cap may result in burns.
Let’s hope we helped you a little with identifying and handling your overheating problem. As always, take care of your car and it will take care of you:
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