Here’s what to do when your car is overheating:
If you see the temperature gauge going up, try turning the air conditioner off. Open up all the windows. This will take the pressure off the engine and give you a chance to get to help before the car dies.
This might seem like a terrible idea during the summer, but the engine heat is what fuels the heater…so by turning on the heat, you are allowing the car to cool down just a little bit. If you must do this during the summer, make sure to roll down your windows!
If you are in a city area, you might be able to find a service station or gas station almost immediately. But if you are traveling a long distance or out in the middle of nowhere, you might have to pull over before you get to a place where you can get help. If you must pull over, don’t open the hood until the engine stops steaming – this could take up to 30 minutes.
You should always have a small bottle of coolant in the car for issues like this. If you don’t have coolant, water will do. But again, be sure not to open up any part of the engine until it is all cool to the touch. You will have to be very patient! Once you can open up the engine, check the coolant levels and pour the coolant into the proper reservoir, if necessary.
Shift your car into neutral or park, then rev the engine. Do this gently! This moves some coolant through the engine and helps to keep things cooled down. You should also aim to “creep” rather than to stop and go in traffic, because you don’t want to use the brakes. Using the brakes creates friction, which then creates heat.
At this point, if you can’t spot the problem and fix it right there, you will have to call a tow truck to get you to help. Fortunately, most radiator problems can be fixed quickly, but you should be prepared for the idea that your problem might take much more time to repair.
Tips and Warnings for Dealing with an Overheating
When dealing with car overheating, your safety comes first. If your car is steaming or smoke is coming out from under the hood, pull over immediately and get out of your vehicle. This could mean that a fire is brewing, and that is definitely a situation you want to get away from as soon as possible. If you do open the hood, try to do so only when the car is cooled down. If you see flames or any evidence of fire, don’t even try to open it – just call 911 and back away.
- Never open the radiator cap while the radiator is hot,
as the release of pressure could lead to serious steam and liquid burns. Even when the radiator is cooled down, be careful when you open it. Use a thick rag to protect your hand, and when you open the radiator, be sure to open the lid so that it faces away from you, just in case steam is released. Never lean over the radiator to look into it.
- Do not add coolant or water to the radiator when the radiator is hot.
Doing so can actually crack the engine block, thanks to the abrupt temperature change – and that means a small repair just turned into a serious, expensive problem.
- If your coolant is entirely gone from a serious leak, don’t try to drive the vehicle.
Call a tow truck instead. Driving a car without coolant means that it will lock up in just a few minutes, and that will absolutely ruin your engine. Be safe rather than sorry and call a tow truck to come help you.