How To Deal With An Overheated Engine

Last Updated: 10/05/2022

It probably shouldn’t surprise you to hear that vehicle engines can overheat.

An engine is providing the power for many different tasks within your car and, unless things are kept well maintained, they can quickly overheat.

This can lead to a whole host of problems, some of which may be particularly dangerous.

Overheating in car engines can be a serious problem if not dealt with quickly.

It’s also one of those issues which can instigate other problems within your car.

Overheating used to be much more common than it is today and thanks to modern technology in newer vehicles, we do see it less and less, however, no matter how new or modern your car is, it can still overheat in certain environments or scenarios.

The first sign you will probably notice when your car is overheating will be the temperature gauge on your dashboard.

On most vehicles, this will ordinarily sit around 50% of the way up the gauge during normal operation, however, if it starts to go above this and especially lands in the red zone at the high end then there is a problem that needs addressing.

One of the primary causes of overheating is simply that the coolant in the engine has run out or is running very low.

If this is the cause, it’s probably going to simply be a case of topping the coolant up so that the engine can regulate its own temperature, however, that is obviously not always possible if you’re in the middle of driving.

Older vehicles may also suffer from overheating if in heavy traffic for a period of time or perhaps even during particularly hot weather.

A mixture of both of these circumstances can also affect newer cars.

What You Will Learn

An overheated engine is a real nuisance as it can crop up when you least expect it and at a time when it is most inconvenient.

There are many things which can cause this and several steps that you can take to deal with the situation.

It may or may not require the assistance of a mechanic, so it’s important to be aware of what you’re dealing with.

This guide is going to examine some of the common causes of an overheating engine and some steps you can take if you’re out driving and notice that your car is overheating.

As always, we have compiled the guide using our usual format and layout to keep things nice and consistent and easy to follow.

That is as follows:

  • Step-By-Step Guide
  • Video Demonstration
  • Hints & Tips
  • Useful Information
  • Final Thoughts
  • Further Resources

Step-By-Step Guide

If you’re driving your car and notice that your car is overheating, take the following steps to try and help your engine out and bring that temperature back down.

  • Start by turning off the air conditioning. Air con can place quite a strain on your engine, particularly if it is short on coolant or has other issues. Turning the air con off can make a significant difference.
  • If the car continues to overheat, turn on the heaters in the car (not the air con). This uses heat from the engine to heat the cabin of your car, so it gives the engine somewhere to blow the heat away from it. You will probably get very hot yourself, so open the windows, but it may save your engine from damage!
  • If you’re stuck in traffic, put the car into neutral and rev the engine a few times. This will increase the fan speed and make water pump to the radiator, both of which can help reduce the engine temperature.
  • An additional thing to be aware of if you’re in traffic is you’re driving style. Don’t start suddenly and then break to a stop again. It’s all adding unnecessary strain and heat to your engine. Instead, try moving at a very low speed consistently, just above idle will do it.
  • If things are still too hot, you’re going to need to pull over somewhere safe and stop for a bit. Open the bonnet and allow the air to mix. This will cool things down at least a little bit. It may take as long as an hour to really bring the temperature down.

Video Demonstration

Hints & Tips

There are a few things you can do which will help to prevent your car from overheating.

Here are a few of them:

Frequently Check The Level Of Your Coolant:

Your vehicle engine uses coolant to regulate the temperature and keep things cool.

Once this coolant runs out, your car will overheat.

It’s the most common cause of engine overheating and so it pays for you to regularly check the level of your coolant.

Check For Steam & Other Leaks:

An overheating engine may be a symptom of an underlying mechanical problem.

Check under the bonnet for signs of leakage.

Get Regular Servicing For Your Car:

By having regular servicing on your vehicle, things such as coolant levels and clear fuel lines will be maintained lessening the risk of issues which can lead to overheating.

Useful Information

It’s important to know how dangerous for your car that an overheating engine can be.

If your engine is too hot for a period of time, it can warp vital components, crack cylinders and lead to expensive and complicated problems.

Engine fires can also result from overheating.

It’s unlikely that overheating will be the sole cause of a fire, however, it can instigate other problems and even combine with faults already present that you do not know about and cause a fire.

Car fires can be lethal – if you ever see smoke coming from your car, it’s vital that you pull over, get as far away from the car as possible and dial emergency services.

Never try to tackle the blaze yourself.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how dangerous overheating can be from a mechanical point of view means that you should be under no doubt as to how important it is to manage it correctly.

If you have taken the steps above but continue to have issues with your vehicle overheating then you should take it to a professional mechanic to be checked out.

It can save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

Further Resources