Why is My Car Overheating?

There’s nothing quite as worrying as seeing your temperature gauge above where it should be. Overheating is one of the most destructive issues you can run into, and can possibly cause catastrophic damage down the line if not taken care of.

Unfortunately, there are various reasons your vehicle may be overheating, and sometimes it can be extremely difficult to narrow down where the source of the problem is. Your car’s cooling system is complicated and extensive, with many different failure points where a leak or issue could occur.

What Happens When My Car Overheats?

Engines and transmissions produce a large amount of heat during operation. With the amount of combustion and friction these parts endure, you could imagine that without proper cooling, things would start to get out of hand.

The real problems start when the temperature becomes so high it can start to warp metal, degrade rubber gaskets, and cause engine components to seize or weld to each other. 

Why is Causing My Car to Overheat?

While there are countless reasons for an overheating engine, here are some common reasons that could be causing your issues.

Not Enough Coolant/Coolant Leak

Maybe the most common cause of overheating, low coolant is bound to cause problems. Without the proper amount of coolant, the cooling system will not be able to effectively maintain the proper temperature and can cause major engine and transmission damage.

This is most often caused by a coolant leak. This could happen at many different points in the cooling loop, but a leaking coolant line or radiator are common culprits. 

You should check both the condition and level of your coolant regularly, so you can avoid allowing the coolant to run dry and lead to more expensive issues down the line.

Green coolant being poured into coolant resevoir
fir0002, GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html>, via Wikimedia Commons

Faulty Water Pump

Water pumps are responsible for moving the coolant throughout your engine, so when it’s leaking or becomes jammed, it’ll cause an overheating situation.

Coolant becomes contaminated over time, and excess dirt and debris can prevent the fluid from effectively flowing or the impeller from properly spinning. Without proper flow of coolant, the vehicle will begin to overheat. 

Water pumps have something called a “weep hole” towards the bottom, which acts as a drainage system and warning sign for failing seals within your pump. If you see coolant seeping from this hole, you should have your water pump inspected and replaced as soon as possible. 

Inside impeller of a water pump
© Raimond Spekking on Wikimedia Commons

Bad Thermostat

Vehicles have thermostats that monitor engine temperature. When temps reach high enough, the thermostat allows for coolant to flow to needed areas. 

When these thermostats break or stop monitoring properly, they will not allow the proper flow of coolant which can lead to serious overheating. 

Ensuring your thermostat is operating properly is important. Unusual and erratic temperature readings are a telltale sign of thermostat failure, and you also might notice strange noises such as boiling of the coolant.

Low Oil Levels

Oil is not the first thing we imagine when thinking of keeping your engine cool, but it actually plays a huge part in maintaining your vehicle’s temperature. While mainly for lubrication, engine oil also has cooling properties that are vital for regulating heat. 

So when oil levels drop, the cooling properties are also lost and can cause overheating within your engine. 

Faulty Cooling Fan

Your vehicle’s cooling fan is important for keeping air running through the radiator and cooling down your vehicle, especially when sitting idle for an extended amount of time. 

Often times these issues are caused by the fan relay, while other times it’s the actual fan itself. If you suspect a broken fan, have it inspected by a professional as driving without a working cooling fan can lead to overheating and its subsequent problems. 

What Should I Do if My Vehicle Overheats?

  • Turn off the A/C and turn on the heater
  • Find a safe place to pull off
  • Allow the engine to cool 
  • Call a mechanic and/or tow truck
  • Have the vehicle safely transported for repair

Cooling Diagnosis and Repair at Scott’s U-Save

If your vehicle is overheating, don’t let the problem linger. Driving an overheating car can quickly cause catastrophic damage if left untreated. 

The expert technicians at Scott’s U-Save can take care of you and your vehicle! We’ll accurately inspect, diagnose, and repair your vehicle, so you can focus on driving and not your temperature gauge! Call or schedule online with us today!

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