What To Do When a Car Overheats? 6 Shocking Causes

Steam dripping from your hot hood is not only annoying, but it can also be a piece of bad news for the health of your vehicle. The engine generates considerable heat during regular operation. If the cooling system does not work correctly, the engine is allowed to overheat and can cause severe problems for the machine.

It can happen because of coolant, engine oil, defective radiator or hoses, and pump. You have to take preventive steps to avoid overheating the car further. 

Know that you should stop driving, turn off the engine, and give it a rest for 30 min to cool down. You can now read the article and read what else can be done. 

1. What Causes a Car To Heat Up?

The following are the reasons why your car overheats. Make sure you read it all to get to its exact cause. 

7 Causes When Car is Overheating Then Goes Back to Normal and Stops Overheating.

1.1 Low Engine Oil Level

Low engine oil can cause many problems apart from overheating the car, so make sure you oil it enough. Low engine oil lubricates your car’s parts and makes running more efficient and effective. 

However, if your engine oil is less, it may also affect the temperature of your car. This may lead to a rise in temperature in some of the components, such as valves or pistons. 

Furthermore, you can identify this issue by seeing if you hear a strange sound from the engine or oil smell like burning, warning light of oil pressure. Oil, thus, is a reason to check why your car overheats. Let us see what else can be the reason for overheating cars. 

1.2 Broken Water Pump

Another reason could be a broken water pump. As the name suggests, this pump moves the water into coolant or circulates it. If there is any issue with it, it may not pump water to the coolant system, and maybe the problem is a cooling system leak. 

Which in turn will give you a faulty coolant system. The car starts overheating because a broken water pump compromises the efficiency of the coolant system.

You may notice that fuel efficiency decreases, or the engine makes a loud noise. This will help you know if your car has a broken pump issue. It can also be because of the radiator; let us read how to fix it. 

What to Do When Your Car Overheats

1.3 Defective Radiator

There is a radiator in your cooling system, similar to home radiators. However, these radiators have more surface area using fins made of metal. The radiator may also get caught in dust or clogged if the cooling system is old or damaged.

This will make the radiator defective and affect the whole cooling system. It will reduce the flow of coolant to the engine, so the motor is overheated. Make Sure you check that the radiator is working fine or not. 

You also have to check the Thermostat of your vehicle when facing such a heating issue in your engine.

1.4 Failure of Thermostat

Like a home’s Thermostat, your vehicle car also has a thermostat. This thermostat helps to regulate the temperature of your engine in the vehicle.

If there is a problem or defect in the thermostat, it cannot regulate temperature as usual. This will restrict the flow from coolant, increasing the engine’s temperature and an overheated engine. 

1.5 Hoses and Belts Issue

If hoses and belts of coolant get damaged, then it may give rise to this overheating problem. The hoses and belts may get clogged or broken and filled with debris or dust. 

This may stop the movement or flow of cooling water to and from the coolant system. It will considerably reduce the functioning of the overall coolant and increase the temperature, making your car overheat. 

How to Fix a Overheating Car Engine

1.6 Engine’s Cooling System

As we said above, radiators help in the cooling of the system along with coolant. Here, the engine’s cooling system might be defective or leak or broken. If your cooling system leaks, a strange smell may come. 

As it sounds, the coolant in your car cools the engine when running by transferring some liquid from the engine into its air. 

However, if there is any leak or if the liquid gets evaporated, the coolant might be damaged. So you should check if it works fine and get it repaired to reduce overheating. 

You now know what could cause car overheating and may take preventive measures.

2. How To Identify If Your Car Is Overheating 

If you see any of these signs, you can identify if your car is overheating. Make sure you do not neglect them. 

  • Your engine’s temperature gauge may have a red sign or read H. This may vary for different cars and manufacturers. 
  • You can also find it on the hood of your car, with white steam coming out.
  • Verify if the engine light is activated. 
  • If your oil is leaking, you will find a burnt smell coming; if your coolant is leaking, you will have a sweet smell. This can lead to overheating. Thus, if you see a strange smell, check it out once. 

Symptoms of Engine Damage from Overheating

Now, let us read what to do when the car heats up. 

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3. What To Do When The Car Overheats?

Here comes the fundamental question of the article. You can follow the below methods to reduce the overheating, and then make sure you visit a nearby service centre. You can also read the owner’s manual once so that you do not mess up yourself and the car. 

3.1 Add Coolant

The problem might be with your coolant because of which car overheats. Check if the hood of your car is relaxed down, as it gets pretty hot. Put on your gloves, and open the car hood. You can now refer to the owner’s manual to find the radiator cap. 

Now, you can reduce the pressure from overheating in the cap by opening it as it cools down. 

After that, add water and antifreeze as coolant in a 50-50 ratio. You can add until it fills. You should add it to the reservoir because it can be empty. Now, you can replace the radiator cap and turn on the engine. 

If you see that the temperature has come down, you can proceed with it, but keep an eye on the temperature gauge in between so you do not get into trouble. 

3.2 Turn On The Heater

Yes, it may seem weird, but turning on the heater may help lower your engine’s temperature. This is because the excess heat will move into the passenger area, reducing the heat around the machine. Yes, you will turn off the air conditioning for this.

If you have little knowledge of cars, don’t forget to check the owner’s manual. This reduces the burden on the engine. Now check if the temperature gauge shows you neutral state signs. See if you can proceed accordingly. 

What To Do When Your Engine Overheats

3.3 Pull Over

If turning on the heater does not work, and the car keeps overheating, pull over and turn off the engine.

Wait for 15 to 20 minutes and let the hood of your car cool down, and maybe, in the meantime, the overheating stops. If you open the hood while it is hot, you may come across a vast hot smoke that may hurt or burn you. Therefore, be careful while opening it and wear gloves. 

3.4 Go to the Nearest Service Station 

Adding coolant and turning on the heater will allow you to move to the nearest repair shop to get your car repaired or know the exact reason for overheating.

Always visit a professional and check your car in such cases. This will reduce any further problems or risks while driving and will give your vehicle a long life. 

4. How to Prevent Overheating of Car?

Now you know why your car is overheating and what to do when the car heats up. Let us take a look at the preventive measures to avoid the overheating of vehicles

  • It would be best to not ignore the initial signs of overheating the car. Check it once before you salvage your car’s engine. 
  • Please take it to the service station and check it occasionally. Servicing always helps! Stop driving when you think your car is overheating to avoid further trouble. 
  • Also, please do not open the car hood when it’s hot. This may burn your hand or hurt you. Wait till it cools down. You can read the owner’s manual before attempting to repair the car.
  • Open the windows so that heat trapped inside moves out to reduce the temperature. You can also use sunscreens so that your interior is excellent. Parking your car under a tree or in the shade is a good option to keep the car’s temperature regular.
  • One should check their engine temperature gauge often and see if the coolant requires anything. See it get to normal range. 
  • Don’t forget to take with you an extra coolant. In case your car heats, you can add this coolant. 
  • For every 40,000 miles, get your car checked by a mechanic. Do not add cold water to the radiator; always see it is at room temperature. 

You now know why your car may overheat, how to prevent overheating, and how to identify overheating (signs).

How to Stop a Car from Overheating / Why your car engine overheats / How to Fix Overheating Car

5. Bottom Line

Take care of your car, and it will take care of you. The best way to prevent your car from overheating is to get serviced regularly. However, if your car is overheating, the best thing to do is to pull over and wait for help or let the engine cool down. Do not continue to drive an overheating car. It can cause lasting damage to the engine.

We discussed what to do when the car heats up and what causes it. Anytime your vehicle heats up, always park nearby and give it some rest to get to the normal range for at least 30 min. Do not keep driving.

I hope you found the article helpful. Feel free to tell us your suggestions in the comment section

Saba is a graduate in computers and is also passionate about researching and writing on various niches. She brings technical foundation and creative touch to her writings.
Arnab Nandi is a recent graduate with a Bachelor's degree and currently pursuing Masters in Commerce from the University of Calcutta, Kolkata. Arnab is an accomplished and highly skilled editor with an impeccable eye for detail and a passion for bringing written works to their full potential. With his exceptional ability to refine, polish, and enhance the written word, he has established himself as a sought-after professional in the world of editing.