Home Service Oil Company
Home Service Oil Company

What To Do When Your Car Engine Overheats

July 15, 2021

So, you’ve noticed steam or smoke coming from beneath your car’s hood; the thermostat is in the red; there is a strange smell emanating from the front of the car, or perhaps you’re experiencing all three! This means your car engine is overheating. Now, what should you do first?

The first thing you should do is turn off the air conditioning and turn on the heat. This will redirect heat from the engine to the passenger compartment. This can sometimes be enough to reverse an overheated engine, however, if you notice your thermostat still in red after some time you should go onto the next step.

If your engine is still overheating find a safe place to pull over. Try not to break to quickly or too hard, because that will only heat the engine more.  Put the car into park or neutral and rev the engine. This helps draw more liquid and air through the radiator.

If you rev the engine and the car is still overheating turn it off and wait at least 15 minutes before opening the hood of the car. If you don’t wait for the car to cool, you risk getting sprayed by boiling liquids as you open the hood. Once you’ve waited 15 minutes, or the hood is cool to touch, go ahead and open the hood.

Now that you’ve got the hood open, you’re going to look for the radiator. If you can’t see any obvious leaks that probably means you’re low on coolant. After waiting for the engine to cool down, use a towel to open the radiator cap. Most cars’ coolant consists of a mixture of 50/50 antifreeze and water. If you don’t have that on hand, room temperature water will also work as a temporary fix until you can get your vehicle to a service station.  

Now that you’ve added some coolant, you should be able to drive your car to the nearest service station. There they will check the vehicle for a leak in the cooling system, low coolant, a malfunctioning thermostat, low oil, a clogged radiator, or a damaged drive belt.