Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How to Deal with an Overheating Car

Most of us have probably witnessed a car overheating. It is usually a sweltering summer day and a person is pulled over with their hood up and frantically trying to cool down their car. While an overheating car is rare with modern vehicles, it can still occur. Remember to stay calm and focus on cooling down your car. People will often panic and try to drive to a gas station or reach their destination. If your temperature gauge is on high, it is important to immediately take measures to cool down your car.

What can cause your car to overheat?
  • Low coolant level – Can be caused by evaporation through the overflow reservoir. This can happen over time or can be caused by being improperly filled. Consult your manual to find the radiator cap and check the fluid level. 
  • A leak in the engine cooling system – Can be caused by old hoses, holes, old or broken gaskets. Leaks or pools of liquid on the ground can indicate a problem with your cooling system. 
  • A bad thermostat – A bad thermostat can act as a plug thus restricting proper circulation. 
  • Failing water pump – Failing water pumps can be indicated by high pitched squeaking. A failing water pump should be addressed as soon as possible because a failing water pump can quickly lead to serious car trouble. 
  • Trapped air in the cooling system – Trapped air usually occurs if there is a problem shortly after a improperly addressed pump repair. 
  • Radiator cooling fan is not working – When turning on the air conditioner while the car is on you should hear the cooling fan start. If you do not hear the fan this could indicate several problem with the the fan e.g. connection, fuse, bad fan. 
  • Clogged radiator core – Oxidation and sludge can clog the radiator core possibly leading to a radiator replacement. 
  • Your radiator cap needs to be replaced – This can be a difficult problem to diagnosed without a radiator cap pressure tester. If you notice fluid around the cap of your radiator try testing the pressure with a pressure tester. 
  • A blown head gasket – This problem can be indicated by puddles of coolant under your car and in extreme cases the car may not even start. 

What to do if you're on the road:
  • At the first sign of overheating, shut off your air conditioner and turn on your heater and fan. This can very effectively transfer heat from your engine to your passenger compartment. Opening your windows can help keep you cool if the heater is on during a hot day. 
  • If you are in traffic resist riding your breaks. Break drag can increase work load on your engine. 
  • If you are in traffic try shifting to neutral or park and rev the engine a little. This can increase water pump circulation and fan speed thus helping heat dissipation. 
  • If the problem persists pull over and let the car cool off. Do not open the radiator cap or add water while the car is hot. If you must add water while the car is still warm add the water slowly while the engine is idling in neutral or park. 
  • If for any reason you feel your car may be compromised from over heating contact a dealership as soon as you can to address the problem.
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