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What to Do If Your Engine Overheats

Posted at Fri, Jan 24, 2020 10:45 AM

Few things can put the brakes on a road trip like having your engine overheat. In the event you are unlucky enough to have this happen the next time you head out on the road, it is important to know how to react. If you are familiar with the dos and don’ts, you can ensure that an overheating engine does not turn a minor inconvenience into a major one. To that end, we here at Westbury Toyota have put together a quick overview of the most obvious signs of an overheating engine, as well as a list of everything you should do if it ever happens to you while you make your way around Long Island.

Indicators That Your Engine Is Overheating

You can prevent any serious and lasting damage caused by an overheating engine if you catch it early enough, which is why it is important to know what to look for. The most telltale signs of overheating are:

  • The engine temperature gauge on your dash reading in the red, or “H." Note that the images for this may vary based on vehicle make, so be sure to check your owner manual for the precise image.
  • Steam or smoke billowing out from under the hood.
  • An unfamiliar smell emanating from the engine area, most notably that of oil (a burnt smell) or coolant (a sweeter smell).

Turn Off the Air Conditioning and Turn Up the Heat

This may seem like an odd thing to do in an emergency. However, as the experts over at Firestone point out, lowering the air conditioning can reduce the stress on the engine and what’s more, turning up the heat can draw heat away from it. Doing this can buy you a bit of time to keep your car from overheating entirely.

Find a Safe Spot to Pull Over

The next thing you need to do is find a safe place to pull over and turn off the engine. If you are in an area or a situation where you cannot immediately call for help, leave your vehicle off for at least 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge while you wait to see whether or not it returns to a normal range. If not, do not attempt to restart the vehicle.

Add Coolant to the Radiator

If you have coolant on hand, explain the pros of Safety Serve, adding some to the radiator could both prevent another instance of overheating and protect your engine. Before you do this, however, it is very important that you do not open the hood until you are certain the engine has cooled completely (the temperature gauge moving back to the cool zone is a good indicator that it is safe to proceed). Before you check the coolant levels, be aware that the radiator cap could be very hot. Use a rag or a towel to twist it off slowly and do not lean over it as there may be steam. If the coolant levels are low, top them up and then replace the cap.

It’s important to note that if there is a break or clog in the coolant hose, simply adding new coolant may not fix the problem. If the coolant levels are where they should be, do not attempt to restart your vehicle. Instead, call for a tow truck.

Restart the Engine

Once you have topped up the coolant level, you can restart the engine. Keep a very close eye on the temperature gauge as you drive. If it starts to rise quickly, pull over immediately and shut it off. If possible, call for roadside assistance. If the temperature gauge rises slowly, you may be able to drive the car to the nearest mechanic or back home, provided you pull over and let it cool before the engine grows too hot.

Prevent an Overheating Engine From Becoming Something More Serious

Even if the overheating engine is a one-time circumstance, it is highly advisable that you book your vehicle in here at Westbury Toyota anyway just to be sure that there are no critical underlying issues. The perfect prevention approach is to ensure that you keep up with radiator maintenance, which includes keeping the coolant levels consistent and doing routine fluid changes and flushes. You should also keep up with regular inspections. In the event you do experience an overheating engine, following our guide will let you minimize any damage while still staying safe.

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