You are in your car with your family enjoying your weekend drive away from home then suddenly out of nowhere disaster strikes, your vehicle is overheating. You have no clue what is happening. How do you handle this situation without causing further damage to the car or causing an irreversible scenario on your engine? Remember in every ugly situation, somehow there must be way out of it.
Why do car engines overheat?
Vehicles are meant to run within a certain bracket of temperatures. Anything above the predetermined temperature is overheating. Sometimes it can be so severe to the extent of engine seizure, or it can be as bad as lifting off your cylinder head(s) or sometimes it can be mild and worth not causing any harm.
Engines don’t just overheat without a reason. If you can find out the cause of your overheating in time, you can be able to arrest the situation, or you can slow down the overheating process and reach a safer place where you can seek professional expertise. Most engine overheats will give you signs and symptoms before snapping off. If well looked into, it can prevent overheating.
Signs of engine overheating
We refer to it as silent overheating because only from routine checkups is when you can realize that something unusual in the cooling system is going on. Some of the early warning signs may include:
- Swollen radiator hose pipes.
- Coolant spillage on radiator housing or on the engine block.
- Coolant droplets around water pump.
- Lack of coolant in reservoir every morning.
- Shrunk radiator hose pipes which usually go back to normal after opening the radiator cap.
- Fan working throughout without stopping.
Causes of engine overheating
Causes of overheating are many but the most basic common ones are:
- Lack of coolant in the radiator: Low-level coolant or completely lack of coolant can be caused by so many factors i.e. punctured pipes or radiator core, faulty radiator cap, punctured interior heating condenser etc. Some vehicles may warn you on time whenever there’s low coolant in the engine while others do not have this feature.
- Low or zero circulation: Coolant circulates between the engine and radiator, blocked radiator cores due to bad quality coolant or debris may hamper circulation, worn-out water pump impellers due to corrosion may also limit coolant movement which will cause overheating, stuck closed thermostats are also notorious for stopping comfort circulation, in fact this is the cause of most overheats but the problem is a good number of mechanics mislead vehicle owners by asking them to remove the thermostat and throw it away instead of replacing it with a new one.
- Lack of sufficient air flow: Cooling fans are in charge of forced airflow through the radiator. If they blow less air or completely fail to blow the air, your engine will overheat especially when you are moving slowly or stationery in traffic.
What to do if your car engine overheats
Once you realize your engine is overheating, turn on the interior heating system. The heat will be immense in your cabin but it’s for the good. Interior heating system uses coolant via auxiliary hoses. Extraction of heat from coolant towards your cabin helps dissipate heat from the engine thus limiting temperature rise. This method has been proven and works well especially in cases where failed thermostat, cooling fan or clocked radiator is the cause of overheat. Drive slowly and anytime you get to a slope, utilize gravity in order to reduce stress on the engine.
What not to do when your car engine overheats
These are some of the things you should not do when your car engine overheats.
- Do not continue driving your car with the engine temperature in red zone. This could easily kill your engine.
- Do not accelerate hard.
- Do not open the radiator when the coolant is still boiling unless you know how to do it with a lot of caution. Steam is very dangerous.
- Do not put cold water from your car cooler, this will result in cylinder head warping. It is recommended to put coolant while the engine has cooled off for at least 20 minutes. The best way is to do so while the engine is running. Some vehicles require coolant bleeding after fresh refill. If you are not sure how to do it kindly consult an expert on how it’s done or else overheating will reoccur.
Note: Always check your coolant level both in your radiator or in the expansion tank before the first start up in the morning. Some people prefer checking out coolant level at the petrol station. It’s not a bad thing but once the vehicle has warmed up, coolant usually expands and goes to the expansion tank, you may be low on coolant but because it has expanded, you will think it’s on the mark or vise verse.