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Car Insurance

How to fix an overheated engine this summer

As temperatures rise outside, so does the risk of your car’s engine overheating. Learn how to cool your engine to prevent future damage and save money.

Summer is almost upon us and as temperatures rise outside, so does the risk of your car’s engine overheating. Although it isn’t common for newer vehicles to overheat, it can still occur if something more serious is wrong under the hood. So if you often find your car getting a little overheated when you travel you should consult a mechanic as soon as possible. However, we don’t always get a fair warning when it comes to car trouble. You could be stuck in traffic during rush hour or on your summer road trip when suddenly steam is billowing from under your hood. It’s best to be prepared with the proper supplies and instructions.

What you’ll need for an overheated engine

  • To keep your eye on your car’s temperature gauge, which is located on your dashboard and will look something like the meter on the left.

  • Keep jugs of coolant (antifreeze) and water in the trunk of your vehicle.

  • Supplies for yourself, like sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses, hat, and extra water, in case you’re stuck on the side of the road in the hot summer heat.

  • A printed copy of the instructions listed in this article.

Not knowing what to do to treat an overheated engine on the scene could lead to long lasting damage for your car. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take while in the breakdown lane to lessen the damage. First things first, if you find yourself stuck in traffic when your engine begins to overheat, put the car in neutral or park and rev the engine a little. This will prompt water and air flow through the radiator which will begin to cool the engine. However, if you find yourself in stop and go traffic while overheating, allow your car to creep along as opposed to continuously accelerating and then breaking. Breaking creates friction which creates heat and will only add to your problems. In either situation you’ll want to try to get to the breakdown lane, parking lot, or any safe place to pull over and begin working under the hood.

What to do if your car overheats

Now that you’ve gotten out of traffic and have found a safe place to park and put on your hazard lights, you’ll want to:

  1. When you notice your temperature gaze moving into the red zone, immediately turn off your air conditioner. The AC in your vehicle puts a lot of strain on your engine.

  2. If you’re still overheating, crank up your heat. While this may be gross on a warm day, moving your car’s heat away from the engine could prevent any further damage.

  3. If all the above steps fail, then pull over in a safe place as soon as you can. If you can pop your hood from inside the car, then do that. If you can only pop your hood by hand, wait until the engine has cooled, especially if you see steam, to avoid burning yourself. It generally takes thirty minutes for an engine to completely cool.

  4. Engines usually overheat because a vehicle’s supply of antifreeze is low. In this case, adding more antifreeze will solve the problem. Once the engine has cooled, add antifreeze. If this alone doesn’t seem to work, then top off the antifreeze with water for a temporary fix. Do not pour cold water into a hot radiator. The sudden change in temperature could cause the engine block to crack. Either wait for the radiator to cool down or slowly add in water while the radiator is warm and your car is in neutral or park. Most cars require a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water to properly function. You won’t be able to drive indefinitely with only water in your radiator. If you don’t have antifreeze on hand at the time of breakdown, you can add water to cool down the engine, but be sure to add in a comparable amount of antifreeze as soon as you can.

  5. If your coolant tank is full then the problem may be something mechanical or electrical, such as a leaking hose, broken fan belt, bad water pump, or faulty thermostat. In this case, you’ll have to call a tow truck from your breakdown location. Only trust your vehicle with a legitimate towing company.

  6. Overall, if your vehicle begins to overheat and you don’t feel confident in your ability to cool it down, it’d be best to call a tow truck and repair shop. Many car insurance carriers have the option to purchase an additional roadside assistance policy. They’ll recommend partnered towing companies and repair shops in your area and you’ll only have to pay a deductible for the service. To find an insurance carrier that offers towing policies at a fair price, use a quote comparison site like Insurify that allows your to customize, build, compare, and purchase a policy in minutes with the help of professional agents throughout the quote process. You’ll be confident you’re getting the most coverage for the best price. You’ll be out of the breakdown lane and on with your summer trip in no time!