Driving in the summertime, we all dread seeing the temperature gauge inch up towards the hot end, until smoke starts issuing from the bonnet! Overheating engines are a lot more likely in warm weather – especially if you’re sitting in traffic – but the causes can vary from quick issues you can fix yourself, to more serious problems you’ll need a mechanic for. Below, we’ll shed some light on the most common engine overheating causes, and what to do if your engine overheats when you’re on the road.
Key Causes of Engine Overheating
No coolant left. If you don’t have enough coolant (or antifreeze) left in your car, your cooling system could fail, so the engine overheats. You should also check that you’ve bought the right type of coolant for your car; some need to be mixed with distilled water, while others can be poured directly into the cooling system. You can check exactly which coolants are suitable for your car with our fast finder tool.
A leak in your cooling system. If you’re running low on coolant, or find you have to top up the reservoir frequently, it’s likely you’ve sprung a leak. Check for puddles under your car when it’s parked – if you suspect fluid is escaping, get it checked as soon as possible. Catching a leak early could save you from further damage and expenses.
Faulty water pump. The water pump circulates coolant around the engine, so if it becomes clogged or ineffective, the coolant can’t do its job, and temperatures will rise. Take a look at our range of replacement water pumps; we stock parts compatible with every exact make and model, for competitive low prices.
Problems with your radiator. Your car radiator passes the heat from coolants into the atmosphere, reducing the temperature of the engine and effectively cooling the coolant. If your radiator has a leak or is damaged, it’ll malfunction, and cause your engine to overheat.
Broken thermostat. Responsible for regulating the temperature in your engine, your thermostat is a valve in the cooling system, which allows the coolant to flow as needed. If it’s faulty, it might not let coolant through, so the heat in your engine begins to rise.
Low oil level. As well as keeping your engine’s parts properly lubricated, engine oil siphons off up to 80% of your car’s extra heat. Check your oil dipstick – if the oil level is too low, it’s likely this is contributing to the temperature of your engine.
What to Do When Your Engine Overheats
1) Once the warning lights come on, or your engine starts to smoke, keep a calm head and start with the following steps. While you’re still moving, turn off the air conditioning (if it’s on) and put the heating on full blast instead, as well as your windscreen demister – this should help move some excess heat away from the engine.
2) If you’re at a standstill in traffic, you’ll need to try and get the coolant moving around your engine again. You can do this by putting the car in neutral, and revving the engine – ideally you want to get the RPM gauge up to the second mark. This will increase the engine speed while you’re stationary, and hopefully get the coolant circulating.
3) Put the car into a low gear (still maintaining that RPM level) and pull over as soon as you’re in a safe position to do so, then turn off your engine. The longer you drive with an overheating engine, the more damage you could cause.
4) Resist the urge to open the bonnet until the car has cooled, and the temperature gauge has moved back to cool.
5) Once your car has cooled down, pop the bonnet and take a look at the likely causes of engine overheating (as listed above). If it’s not something you can fix easily, like your oil or coolant levels, then call your breakdown cover provider.
6) If you’re stuck on the hard shoulder, or somewhere else you could potentially cause a traffic obstruction, make sure your hazard lights are switched on.
An overheating engine doesn’t always mean an expensive repair. At Euro Car Parts, we stock all the necessary parts to get you back on the road, all at affordable prices to help you bring the cost of your repair down. Check out our full range of coolants, engine oils, car radiators and water pumps to find exactly the right products for your make and model.