Why Is My Car Engine Overheating?

Updated on January 18, 2019

Why is My Car Overheating?

To answer this question, one first needs to ask a couple of other questions:

  • How quickly is my car overheating?
  • Does it overheat often or just every once in a while?
  • How old is my car?
  • Does it overheat when I'm driving normally, or just when I'm stopped in traffic?

These questions will help to diagnose and determine which specific system of the car might be failing, or whether the overheating is general, due to an old engine that's just getting old. Sometimes a specific system can fail, causing the car to overheat. Other times, multiple issues can slowly bring about the onset of overheating. This article will hopefully help you diagnose and determine what kind of overheating problems you're having.

If your wondering why your car is overheating, the chances are that there's a problem with one of the components of the cooling system.
If your wondering why your car is overheating, the chances are that there's a problem with one of the components of the cooling system. | Source

Possible Overheating Issues

  • Bad Thermostat: The thermostat is a component that's actually designed to heat up the engine when the car is first started. It stops the flow of coolant and water through the engine until the engine reaches a high enough operating temperature. After that, the thermostat disengages and the coolant system keeps the engine running within the range of operating temperature. Sometimes however, the thermostat gets stuck in the closed position. When this occurs, you're basically running your car without a cooling system. If you've got a bad thermostat, your car will probably overheat very quickly every time you drive for more than 10 minutes or so. It can happen on newer vehicles as well as old.
  • Broken Water Pump: If your water pump goes bad, then your cooling system won't flow properly. The water pump is what circulates coolant throughout the system, so when it goes bad, overheating is pretty much inevitable. Depending on how broken your water pump is will determine how quickly your car will overheat. A complete stoppage in flow is basically the same thing that happens when your thermostat goes bad. A partial stoppage in flow can lead to slow overheating.
  • Broken Radiator Fan: Right next to your radiator is a fan called the radiator fan. These fans are somewhat fragile and can break or get damaged from time to time. Sometimes rocks can fly through and damage or break the fan, causing less cooling ability for the radiator itself. I've seen these fans get broken wings, lose the belt that drives them, or just stop working for some unknown reason. If your car is overheating, check to make sure that your radiator fan is working properly.
  • Loose Radiator Cap: The cooling system is pressurized, which helps the flow of the coolant throughout the engine system. On top of your radiator sits a cap that's rated to hold a certain amount of pressure. Sometimes these caps can get damaged or loose and don't hold pressure anymore. Depending on the circumstances, the radiator system might still work, just not as efficiently. But NEVER unscrew the radiator cap while the engine is hot. It will blow hot steam into your face.
  • Not Enough Coolant: If your car is overheating, then you might not have enough coolant in the system. There is a tank called the coolant overflow tank, that's a reservoir to hold extra coolant to make sure that there's always enough flowing through the cooling system when the car is on. The tanks look different with every car, but it should be somewhat near your radiator and have a rubber line leading to your radiator. If the coolant overflow tank is empty or near empty, then you may need to add more coolant to it.
  • Gunk Throughout the System: As cars get older, they generally begin to run hotter. That's mostly due to the fact that over the years, gunk and deposits build up in the engine and cooling systems which constrict the flow of fluids and can cause excess friction. If you're driving an older car and it's starting to run really hot, then you probably ought to try to flush out some of the deposits and gunk. For the oil system, Seafoam is a great additive that you can add to your oil to liquify the sludge and gunk that has built up over time, allowing it to be changed out with the rest of your oil. For the cooling system, you can flush the radiator system with water a couple of times. The easiest way is to dump the coolant out by unhooking the lower radiator hose that's usually somewhere near the bottom of the engine compartment. If you don't know what that is, it should be the only large rubber hose that leads to the bottom of the radiator.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I was suddenly watching my heat gauge go up and up while driving this afternoon. I had my car in the shop for an Ac check and maybe the tech didn't put something back or in place. My temp. gauge has been perfect. So off to a good shop to find out what's going on.

    • Benjimester profile imageAUTHOR

      Benji Mester 

      8 years ago from San Diego, California

      Thanks very much!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      First time reading this kind of article with very nicely explained with pictures, thank you so much



    • Benjimester profile imageAUTHOR

      Benji Mester 

      8 years ago from San Diego, California

      Nice! Nothing wrong with that.

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Very informative. The way I have of combating this phenomenon is to always buy new cars and keep them in top notch shape.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, axleaddict.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)