Summer is the time to be spent alongside the pool, surrounded by friends and family around the barbecue grill, or taking a much-anticipated family vacation, not stuck on the side of the road with a steaming engine. Yet, it’s a common circumstance to see drivers off to the side of the road with a vehicle that has overheated.
While an engine can certainly overheat in any temperature, the heat from the summer can increase the probability of this occurrence. When the temperature surrounding the engine, including the rising heat of the asphalt, heat generated by the engine, and of course the outdoor temperature are all factors that increase the likelihood of overheating. Follow our “Dos and Dont's” in the event that your vehicle overheats and how it may be avoided in the future.
Prevention Is Key
Proper maintenance is the best defense when it comes to keeping your vehicle on the road. In order to prevent your vehicle from overheating, make sure your vehicle receives a coolant flush every 30,000 miles and replacing belts and hoses every 3 years or between 36,000 – 50,000 miles. Check your coolant levels frequently– a lower than normal amount of fluid could indicate a leak in the system. To check your coolant level, allow the vehicle to cool completely, remove the coolant recovery tank cap, and check the level. Do NOT attempt to remove the radiator cap if the vehicle has been running. Removing the cap when the vehicle is hot could result in severe burn injuries. If you don’t feel comfortable checking the level yourself, ask a professional to check your fluid when your vehicle is in for service, such as during an oil change.
What To Do
Sometimes, due to a faulty thermostat or radiator cap, overheating is unavoidable. Your first indication will come from your temperature gauge on your dashboard. As the needle starts creeping up, you’ll need to be prepared as your vehicle is communicating that something is wrong. At this point, it would be wise to vent the vehicle as best you can. Turn off the air conditioning, roll down the windows, and open the sunroof if you have one. This will help to reduce the load on the engine, potentially reducing the temperature. If the vehicle’s temperature continues to rise, here’s what to do:
Turn on the Heater and Blower – While it’s hot and uncomfortable for passengers, it does wonders for the engine by transferring the heat from the engine to the cabin. Because heat rises, you’re better off switching to the floor vents and placing the blower on the highest setting. Once the vehicle begins to cool, you may utilize the upper vents again.
Go Neutral or Park it – If you’re in heavy traffic, shift into Neutral or Park and rev the engine a little. The water pump and fan will speed up, circulating coolant through the radiator, faster. The increase in air and circulation of liquid will help cool the engine.
Don’t Brake It – If you’re in stop-and-go traffic, allow your vehicle to crawl along slowly as opposed to moving up and then braking. This allows more air to pass through the radiator. If traffic is at a crawl, advance only when there is a large gap between you and the vehicle in front of you.
Pull Over – If you’ve tried everything you can to prevent the vehicle from overheating and the temperature is still rising, safely pull off to the right side of the road, open the hood to relieve some of the heat, and wait for the vehicle to cool entirely. Remember, for your safety, do not add water or remove the radiator cap until the vehicle has cooled completely.
What Not To Do
While there is so much you can do to prevent an engine from overheating and what you can do if it does occur, there are also some things that you should avoid doing:
Don’t Get Watered Down – Do not use water in the place of coolant. While water is perfectly acceptable to use during an emergency until coolant can be replaced, regular use is not recommended. Coolant is preferred as it has additives that help to prevent rust and corrosion while also lubricating the cooling system components within the engine.
Don’t Be Cold – Using water to cool the engine is wise but avoid using cold water. Cold water can damage the engine block by causing it to crack or lead to other damages, resulting in large repairs. Allow the vehicle to cool completely before adding any water.
Don’t Allow Frequent Overheating – Overheating really places a strain on the engine. Allowing the vehicle to overheat often can result in major and costly repairs that often lead to engine repairs or replacement.