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What To Do if Your Car Overheats

Published May 14th 2014, 11:25am by Jody DeVere in Featured Articles

overheating radiatorIt’s so hot in Los Angeles that actor Wil Wheaton is joking about the sudden heatwave on Twitter, saying “I bet if you get people to RT the hashtag #damitishotinla it will raise awareness and solve the problem right away.”


Well, retweeting the #damitishotinla hashtag may not actually solve the problem, so if you’re concerned about overheating your car in summer heat, here are some tricks you can do to help prevent having to pull over in a place you'd rather not:


• Turn off your air-conditioning and keep it off. The A/C makes the engine work much harder than normal and you want to lighten the load of your poor, overtaxed engine.

• Open your windows all the way down, turn the heat on high, and switch the control to the vent.  I know this sounds like a crazy thing to do when it's so hot outside, but turning the heat on all the way pulls the heat off the engine and hopefully you will see your temperature gauge begin to drop. The unfortunate side of this trick is that all the heat is going to blow right at you into the cabin of your car.

• If the temperature gauge continues to climb, you want to pull over before the gauge goes into the red, before steam rises out from under your hood, or before that red warning light comes on. Once you are into the red zone, you want to pull over right away, turn off the engine, and call for help.

• NEVER, NEVER, NEVER remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The coolant in the radiator is under pressure, and you could get seriously burned if it sprays out at you. Be patient! Let it cool down so much that you can touch the engine without burning your fingers. This will take about 45 minutes to an hour.

• If the radiator is low on coolant, you can add straight water in this emergency. Check when you add the water to see if it comes out of a hose or the radiator right away. If there is a big leak, call a tow truck. You can't drive the vehicle without some type of coolant running through the radiator or you will kill your engine.

• If you do add water and this saves the day, you will still need to get your car checked out for leaks and have a proper antifreeze/water mixture added to the coolant system. You don't want to have the same problems or worse on the way home. To keep the cooling system working effectively, the coolant and distilled water mixture for a vehicle's radiator should be 50:50. As a reminder, never open a hot radiator cap when checking the coolant level in the reservoir. As a rule of thumb, many people suggest changing the coolant annually on most vehicles to keep the cooling system fresh and clean inside, which helps prevent corrosion and assures that the coolant has the proper boiling point and protection.

• If the radiator is full of coolant there's not much else you can do, except call a tow truck and have a professional mechanic check it out. There are a number of different reasons a car will overheat. The most common ones are worn-out radiator hoses or broken fan belts. It could also be the radiator, the thermostat, radiator cap, recovery tank, malfunction of the cooling fan, or something as simple as a clamp coming loose on one of the hoses.


Get more overheating tips here at AskPatty.


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