Don’t panic! An overheating car surely seems like a scene from a horror movie but is something that commonly happens and a situation you can learn a lot from. Engines can overheat for many reasons, but in general, it is because something is wrong within the cooling system and the heat is not able to escape the engine compartment.

Despite today’s sophisticated cooling systems equipped with heat sensors and computer-controlled electric fans that are designed to keep your engine running at all times, overheating can still happen.

Why Your Car Engine Overheats?

The basic process of overheating involves a problem with your vehicle’s cooling system that prevents heat from leaving the engine compartment. There are many reasons for that – it can be a leak or blockage somewhere in the engine’s cooling system or problems with other components.

For instance, components like rubber hoses, gaskets, and water pumps can all spring a leak with regular wear and tear. Also, certain driving conditions like stop-and-go traffic on hot days can put additional stress on the cooling system and potentially cause it to fail. You can avoid this problem with regular maintenance by certified mechanics, who will check your coolant, oil levels, and inspect fans, hoses, thermostats, and other components of the cooling system.

The most common signs of an overheating engine include:

  • Steam (that looks like smoke) comes from the front of the vehicle right under its hood
  • The engine temperature gauge on your dashboard which goes to “H” or moves into the red area
  • Strange smells coming from the front of the car and around the hood (might be leaking coolant)

There are many potential things that can cause your engine to overheat. From improperly circulating coolant to leaks, damaged hoses and other malfunctions, if you are witnessing any of these signs, here is what to do.

3 Things To Do When Your Car Engine Overheats

Here are the three steps you can take if your car overheats:

  1. Pull over to a safe location and turn off the engine – If your car is overheating and the temperature gauge only goes up to the “H”, you should pull over and turn off the ignition. This is, after all, the safest and surest way to cool the engine and prevent any further problems.
  2. Check coolant levels and top-up if needed – When you have waited at least 15 minutes and your hood has cooled off, put on your gloves, open the hood, and locate the radiator cap. Cover this cap with a towel and slowly push down, loosening it very slowly to release the pressure that has built up as a result of the coolant expanding when heated. Then, open the radiator cap and slowly add coolant (half water, half antifreeze), until this liquid reaches the “full” line. 
  3. Drive to your local service station – The safest thing to do when your engine overheats is to drive to your local car service station. If you are near, you should avoid any of the above-mentioned tips and go straight there to prevent any troubles in the future. Make sure to take notice of everything and have the experts run diagnostics on your vehicle.

Being prepared is the safest thing you can do with an overheating engine. In some cases, the problem may be very serious, which is why you should always have the vehicle examined by a professional rather than doing anything yourself.