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What causes a vehicle to overheat after traveling 50 miles? At short distances-no problem. I have a 2003 Dodge Neon (purchased 7/13/2011 as is) and within 24 hours discovered it overheated. The check engine light was on but salesman said it was because of gas cap not being tight and he would have it turned off.

Answers from the Automotive Experts

Amanda J. Pierce, MBA Vela, Thank You for writing into AskPatty!! Your overheating issue could be cause by a number of issues, (1) need of a coolant flush with a thermostat replacement. (2) small leak in a hose (3) faulty coolant temperature sensor. I recommend you begin with option (1) and an inspection to the overall cooling system to further determine your source of over heating. A loose gas cap can cause a check engine light to come on, and if that is the issue only then it usually auto resets after 4-5 key cycles. Hope this points you in a more sure direction. Write back if you have any other questions or concerns. A. J. Valle

Judy Curry, Co-Founder and Vice President of Marketing at Currys Auto Service Vela, there are many reasons that could affect this but, from our experience, the neon’s had a reputation of bad head gaskets. Have a shop you can trust check for fluid level and quality of fluid , as well as fan function if all else fails check the coolant for hydrocarbons, this will let you know if the head gasket is leaking. Hope this helps and good luck! Judy and the Curry's Team

Kerri Papajohn, Marketing Director at USA Sealants, Inc. Thermostat sticking, low coolant and the fan not operating properly are the 3 major ones. There may also be blockage in the cooling system.

Kristin Brocoff, Director of Corporate Communications at Some of the most common reasons cars and trucks overheat are a faulty cooling system or low fluid level. During the hotter months, your vehicle’s cooling system has to work harder to prevent engine overheating. Diagnostic trouble codes may include P0115-P0119 and P0480-P0485, which signify problems related to the coolant system, fan and engine coolant temperature. If your check engine light is already on, it’s important to get the problem fixed before you find yourself pulled to the side of the road again with a steaming hood. If you do wind up in this situation it’s a good idea to turn off your air conditioning and turn on your heater. Although it’s hot, it can help remove heat from the engine and use the additional fans to cool things down until you can get to safety. Be careful not to overheat in the process. Also, always remember to check your car’s fluids, such as engine coolant, brake fluid, automatic transmission fluid, washer fluid and engine oil regularly. Reference your service manual for the proper levels. It is very unlikely that a loose gas cap alone would cause overheating. I encourage you to get a second opinion soon. Also, whenever you are buying a used car, it's a good idea to check for hidden problems before you buy. The CarMD handheld device can help you do this in seconds. Best, Kristin Brocoff, Corporation

Lori Johnson, Owner and Instructor at Ladies Start Your Engines Dear Vela, You should take your vehicle to a place like Advance Auto or Auto Zone and have them read the code for you. They will do it for free. This way you will know if it's really on because of the gas cap. The vehicle could be overheating for many reasons. A bad thermostat, clogged radiator, leaking hoses...meaning the coolant is low. Whenever you buy a used vehicle I recommend having a technician you trust to look it over first. There are some Salepeople will tell you anything so that you'll buy the vehicle from them. Good luck. Lori Johnson

Pat Fleischmann, Director of First Impressions at Community Tire Pros & Auto Repair Vela, First place~is to check to make sure it doesn’t have a blown headgasket. Other than that, a restricted radiator, thermostat issue, insufficient flow from the water pump are all possible items that can cause this symptom. Remember your salesman was trying to sell a car! Sometimes it is the gas cap not fitting properly, broken or missing cap. Take it to your trusted mechanic & have them do a complete diagnostic, this will save you in the long run & give you a piece of mind in your travels...

Suzanne Grego, Technician at City of Philadelphia Fleet Management Vela LaCasse, You could have a bad or stuck thermostat, be low on coolant or possibly the fan is not working. Also, a little harder to diag would be an air pocket within the coolant system. First and easiest, I would check the coolant level, and if possible, the integrity of the antifreeze to water mixture. Next, I would make sure the fan is turning on as the engine heats. If all of the formentioned is up to par, it's possible you will need to test the thermostat. Hope this helps. Suzanne

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