What to Do If Your Car Overheats
There are so many things that can go wrong when you are driving your vehicle, and overheating is a big one. Hopefully you realize that while you are driving, you should pay attention to your car's gauges.
You should always know what is going on around you when you are driving, but you should know what is going on inside your car as well.
Prevent Overheating by Watching the Temperature Gauge
You should always keep an eye on your car's temperature gauge, just to be safe. Different vehicles operate at different temperatures, but generally the gauge should stay at or below the middle.
Many of these gauges have a red or dark spot (it's gray in the picture above) that identifies a "dangerous" temperature. If your vehicle reaches this temperature you need to know what to do.
What to Do If Your Car Overheats
If your vehicle overheats, the first thing you should do is slow down and find a place to let your engine cool down, either by driving slowly or coasting.
You need to get water or coolant into your vehicle as soon as possible, but it's crucial not to shut your car off too soon.
Again, DO NOT shut the engine off until it cools down to normal temperature. If you can't get the car to cool off, don't shut off the engine.
The next step is to obtain water or coolant immediately. Once you have water/coolant, you need to add it to your radiator. To do this, you will need to have the engine running, so if you turned the car off, start it back up. Your radiator will have a lot of pressure in it—do not just open the cap right away!
When and How to Release the Radiator Cap
You need to let off the pressure inside the radiator. Do this by turning the radiator cap until it hits the first notch; you should hear the pressure releasing. Even though the engine has cooled off somewhat, protect your hand with a rag from the hot cap. Once all of the pressure is released, it should be safe to remove the radiator cap by pushing down and turning the cap the rest of the way.
Now that you have the cap off of the radiator, you can begin slowly pouring water/coolant into the radiator. The engine should still be running.
You want the engine to be running because you can crack your engine block by pouring cold water into a hot engine. By keeping the engine running, the hot water in the engine mixes with the cold water and warms it instead of a sudden punch of cold water. This will also help get rid of any air bubbles that are in the engine.
When pouring the water/coolant, the radiator will likely fill up to the top and then go down and there may be a lot of bubbles; this is normal. You need to completely fill the radiator, and to do so you need to make sure all the air comes out.
When the radiator is full, replace the radiator cap.
You're almost done!
The Reserve Tank
After filling the radiator completely, you need to also fill the reserve tank. This is a small tank that connects to the radiator and holds extra water/coolant.
Track down your reserve or overflow tank by following the small tube/hose connected to your radiator. The large tube/hose runs to your engine block. You need to make sure that this is full to the "max" line; if you overfill, it don't worry, it won't hurt anything.
Now you are done and your car should be fine, but you may have a leak in your radiator!
You should have a professional check your cooling system for leaks, especially if this is a recurring event. Every now and then, a car will become low on coolant and overheat to let you know. This is "normal," but if it happens a lot, you definitely have a leak somewhere!
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.