on 11, Apr 2019

What To Do When Your Engine Overheats: A Complete Guide To Handle Car Overheating

The engine is the heart of every car. It comprises of valves opening and closing, the piston moving up and down and crankshaft rotating tirelessly to help you undertake your journey.

As a result of this continued hard work by various components, things can get very hot inside your car’s hood. Sometimes the heat becomes so much so that the engine, in general, the car is said to be overheated.

Many commuters usually associate overheating with the summer season, which is a myth. Overheating can occur in any season, as it mainly depends on the performance and efficiency of the cooling system to remove heat from the engine. The manufacturers put their cars to rigorous testing to make sure that they adapt to any situation.

The components that go into making car wear and tear over time, demanding a replacement. Replacement of these parts is definitely a better choice than recovering a burnt or damaged engine.

Further, you might be left stranded on the roadside, watching your car towed and a series of massive repair bills. Overheating in engines is generally indicated by the temperature gauge on your car’s instrument cluster.

When you see it climbing towards the red mark, don’t ignore it. Instead, keep a calm head and act right. There are many culprits responsible for overheating.

Let us understand them in detail and also look at the processes to be followed to ensure that your engine operates at the optimum temperature.



The steam emerging from the bonnet indicates that the engine is overheated.



The air conditioning unit puts a load on the engine. Although it helps you relax in the scorching heat, it is not good for your engine. Switching off the AC might reduce the temperature of the engine but it will be a time taking process.



This isn’t by any means a favourable condition if you are travelling in hot weather. But in the situation of your engine getting overheated, your engine needs more attention than what your body requires.

The heater cools down the engine by drawing heat from the overheated engine into the cabin. If this does not work, its time to give your car some urgent rest.



If the above methods do not work, pulling over the car to the roadside might work. If you continue to drive, it will damage the engine, thus you will be spending a lot on maintenance. Turn on your hazard lights after you have parked your car on the roadside.



Park your car or put it in neutral at a safe location and rev the engine. By revving the engine, the fan and water pump work at a faster pace, thereby pulling an increased amount of air and water through the car’s radiator. As a result, the circulation of the coolant increases throughout the engine.


After you have pulled over, let the car cool down. You can pour water on the radiator, to fasten the heat removal from the engine bay.

Pull the latch to open the hood, but don’t raise the bonnet as the heat has built up a lot of pressure, thus high-pressure steam will be gushing out. Stay away from the engine bay to avoid burns and injuries.



After the engine has cooled down to a safer operating temperature, it is safe to add water in the radiator. Turn on the ignition to allow the circulation of the fluids in the cooling system to prevent the formation of air pockets.

This allows effective cooling of the radiator. Coolant is usually stored in a translucent plastic tank, acts as a reservoir and is located near the radiator. The engine coolant is usually a 50:50 mixture of water and coolant.

The indicator lines on the coolant indicate the coolant level. If the coolant level is low, add the required amount and reattach the reservoir cap. For safety purposes never add the coolant to a hot engine. it might lead to burns and injuries.

Add coolant to the engine only when it's allowed to cool down for a minimum of 30 minutes (depending on the condition of the engine).



The most common cause of engine overheating is the cooling system. Coolant is a liquid that circulates throughout the engine and keeps the engine temperature in check.

The failure of the cooling system may be caused by a leak or clog that drains the coolant over time. Thus, the engine now can depend only on the outside air to remain cool during its operation.

Driving a car without a coolant can raise the temperature of the engine to such a level where it might fail and require a heavy expenditure to bring it back to life.


If the coolant is not leaking from anywhere, then there might be a blockage due to the accumulation of dirt, dust and road sediments that block the flow of fluids through the hoses.

These contaminants lower the heat capacity of the coolant and also clogs up the coolant passages. This is usually the case in cars that are nearing 75000km on the odometer.

The blockage might be partial or full. To get rid of the blockage, the system should be flushed. Flushing includes draining the old and dirty coolant from the radiator and then with the help of flushing fluids, the radiator should be cleaned. Finally, the coolant tank is refilled.


Loss of coolant can also be caused by an internal leak that is a leak within the engine. It can result from a cracked or blown gasket and engine head. If white smoke is visible from the exhaust and the car is not idling properly then this might be the sign of coolant passing into the combustion chamber.



Also check that the radiator hose clamps are properly secured. The hoses should be properly secured in place and should be in top condition without any cracks.



The extremely low oil level can also be the reason behind engine overheating. The lubricant is not just meant for reducing the friction between the moving parts but also absorbs the excess heat generated from the engine.

The oil level should be frequently checked as more kilometres are done as older engines tend to burn the oil faster as compared to newer engines. The engine oil should be replaced as per the service instructions.



The water pump helps to circulate the engine coolant under high pressure throughout the cooling system. Defects in water pump can be identified by leaks, eroded impeller vanes, broken water pump impeller and shifting of the shaft of the pump. The broken seal in the pump is a common cause of coolant leaks.



The function of the thermostat is to regulate the amount of coolant that flows through the engine. If you see a rise in temperature gauge at highway speeds, then the most common reason is thermostat failure.

An overheated engine can result due to the broken or malfunctioning thermostat or a thermostat that is stuck closed. The thermostat acts as a heat sensitive valve. In case the thermostat fails to open, the coolant will continue to circulate through the system but its temperature keeps on rising, which leads to overheating.



The radiator consists of fins which are used to increase the surface area for intake of air when the car is moving at high speeds. As the car moves, the air is forced through the radiator to the engine.

The air flow is responsible for removing the heat from the coolant and dissipating it to the atmosphere. The flow of air can be hindered by the presence of unnecessary substances such as leaves, stones, sticks on the front or back side of the radiator.



Some engines still utilise the fan belt to drive the radiator cooling fan instead of the modern electric driven fans. If the belt is lost or broken then the fan needs to be repaired.



A burned out fan motor might be the cause of a failed electric fan. The fans usually get switched on when sitting in traffic to enhance air flow. If the fan fails, a rise in temperature can be noticed when sitting in traffic or driving in a very hot environment. In case the electric cooling fan is not starting, its wiring and temperature sensor should be checked.



The engine drive belts may be broken or slipping. If this is the case, then the belt should be tightened or replaced.

The regular maintenance of your engine and your car, in general, will help you avoid the overheating problem. An overheated engine can be dangerous and if ignored can lead to high repair bills.

Many people find that their engines are excessively heated still, they are not concerned and continue to drive their car, which is not a good idea. In most cases, the cooling system is at fault.

Fixing a cooling system problem is by far cheaper than engine damage. You should implement the above guide from today only to avoid being in an unpleasant situation where your car transforms into a steamship and you feel embarrassed.

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