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How To Help Prevent Your Car from Overheating

It's an all too familiar sight on the roads and highways throughout the country: A car on the shoulder, with smoke billowing from the engine. Overheating engines are a common issue, and they're most common on long drives or road trips when the engine has to work harder for longer.

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How To Prevent Your Engine from Overheating

When car engines overheat, it's largely because there's an issue with the cooling system and heat being emitted from the system cannot adequately disperse from the engine compartment. One common culprit is something as seemingly simple as low coolant levels. Other sources of overheating engines often include cooling system leaks, damaged pumps and clogged hoses.

How To Prevent Your Engine from Overheating

The good news is that there's preventative action you can take to help reduce the likelihood of your vehicle engine overheating.

Check Coolant Levels:

  • One of the simplest things you can do is regularly check your coolant levels. Often, your mechanic will top off coolant levels when you bring the vehicle in for routine maintenance. However, it still makes sense to get into the habit of checking the levels yourself periodically. Make sure you only check the coolant levels when your vehicle's engine is cool.
  • If you're regularly adding coolant, but your vehicle is still running hot, you could have a leak somewhere in the system. You can confirm any suspicions by looking for puddles of coolant under your vehicle. If this is the case, see a mechanic for repairs.

Watch Your Temperature Gauge

  • Keep an eye on your dashboard. Specifically, your vehicle's temperature gauge, which helps give you an idea of how hot the engine is running. It's especially helpful to monitor on longer drives. If you begin to see it creeping to high-temperature levels, don't be afraid to pull over to give your car a break or assess any issues.

Check Your Drive Belt

  • Drive belts help power the water pump, which thereby helps circulate coolant. If this belt breaks or endures damage, no coolant will be circulating, and the engine will quickly overheat. Get into the habit of periodically checking the drive belt yourself or asking your mechanic to inspect it when you bring your vehicle in for routine maintenance. Most mechanics recommend drive belt replacement after about 60,000 miles.

Regularly Flush Your Coolant

  • Topping off the coolant is one thing, but it's also important to flush the cooling system periodically to remove old fluid and replace it with new, clean fluid. Coolant flushes are also an ideal time to inspect the hoses and other system components. According to Kelley Blue Book, coolant flushes are recommended every two years or 30,000 miles.

My Engine Overheated: What Now?

Even despite preventative efforts, your engine may still overheat. Here are the steps to take if you notice steam coming from under the car hood or your temperature gauge spiking:

Crank the Heat

  • Immediately turn off the air conditioning if it's on, and crank the heat to move heat away from your engine. While it likely won't be the solution to the problem, it can prevent the overheating from getting worse until you're able to pull over and assess things more thoroughly.

Check Coolant Levels

  • Wait until the engine cools down and check your coolant levels. If it's low, top it off. If it's not, you are likely to have a clogged hose or other issue.

Get to An Auto Repair Shop

  • If you were able to top off coolant levels, you should be okay to restart the engine and drive to your nearest auto repair shop for further service. If the overheating stemmed from more significant underlying issues, however, we suggest having your vehicle towed to avoid further engine damage.

An overheating engine is never a welcome situation on the road, but it's important to know what to do — both to prevent it from happening and if it were to happen.

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