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Why is my car overheating

April 1, 2015

Those hot summer months are just around the corner, so what does that mean for your car? Your body can cool itself down by sweating, or you might decide to jump into a swimming pool's welcoming cold water. Your car can't just cool down with a dive into the water, and an overheated engine can be dangerous, causing roadway accidents and bumping up auto insurance rates. Prevent these risks by learning more about why your car is overheating and what you can do about it.

During the hot summer months, it's important to keep your vehicle cool.

Overheating car symptoms

While an overheated car is more common with older vehicles, brand new automobiles are not immune to it. Certain driving habits can contribute to overheating, and those chances are maximized under the scorching summer sun. Those conditions include stop-and-go traffic and driving a vehicle up a steep slope.

Issues within the car itself can also lead to overheating. A low coolant level is usually the cause of a hot car. The coolant circulates in the engine to remove the heat, and if the car doesn't have enough, the heat gets trapped inside. The electric cooling fan also helps to push hot air out of the radiator, and it can sometimes need repaired or replaced. Overheating can also be caused by a clogged radiator or a thermostat that won't open to let the coolant in.

How to cool it down

Fortunately, there are several ways to lower the car's temperature. First, you need to recognize that your car is overheating, and this can be done by reading your dashboard temperature gauge. Your car is at a safe temperature if the hand sits in the middle between C and H on the dial. If the temperature reads higher than that, then your car is probably overheated. However, this could also be a sign of a faulty temperature indicator, which would need immediate replacement.

A sure sign that your car is overheating is if steam is blowing out from under the hood. It might not be entirely noticeable, so if you suspect that your car is getting too hot, take a careful look at the front of the vehicle.

If you've determined that your car is overheating, you'll need to cool it down. Roll down the windows, and blast the heat to draw that warm air out of the engine. Pull over as soon as possible to avoid heating the engine any more. However, if you're stuck in traffic, avoid excessively braking as this will increase the load on the engine.

Once your car is stopped, put it in neutral or park and rev the engine a little to help with liquid and air circulation. You can also pop the hood to let the car cool off, and check your coolant levels.

The best thing to do if your car is overheating is to act quickly. Immediately cooling the car down will minimize the damage and help avoid a potential accident.