Thanks to more advanced technology, today’s cars contain high-level systems with various sensors that keep engines cool and running efficiently in any season. However, despite such modern sophistication, your car can still become overheated. Whether a gasket has sprung a leak or stop-and-go traffic (on a balmy summer day) stresses your vehicle’s engine, a perfect storm of circumstances can lead to disaster.
Fortunately, keeping up with routine maintenance can prevent many of these issues, but in the event of an excessively heated car, here are a few ways to stay safe and prevent extensive damage.
Keep a Safety Kit Handy
It never hurts to be prepared for the worst, and in this case, that means having a bag on hand with a few key items: a towel (that you don’t value…it might get dirty), several quarts of motor oil, heavy-duty gloves, a gallon of coolant, and a basic toolkit. You’ll use some of these items for the next steps.
Pull Over Safely
Avoid crossing four lanes or panicking in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Instead, if you see smoke coming from your hood, slow down cautiously and look for a spot out of the way to begin the cooling down process. At this point, you should also consider calling roadside assistance for more help.
Engage the Heater
Crazy as it sounds, starting the heater inside the cabin pulls heat away from the engine. Sometimes, this step might be all it takes to regain your car’s internal temperature balance.
Wait, Wait, Wait
If you don’t feel comfortable calling for professional help and you’d rather wait it out, sometimes giving your vehicle about 15 minutes to recover can be all it takes to get the system righted again. Note: always keep the hood closed. Your car’s internal temperature has reached unsafe levels, and in some cases steam or water can spray as the hood opens.
If turning on the heater didn’t do the trick and you’ve waited at least 15 minutes for things to cool off, give the hood a quick test tap to make sure it isn’t scorching. When it feels safe, get the heavy-duty gloves on and open the hood.
Next, find the radiator cap (the owner’s manual will tell you where it is) and, using the towel, push down lightly on the cap before turning it to release pressure that has built up as the coolant expanded. Remove the cap and add coolant until it hits the “full” line. For best results, add coolant to the plastic overflow reservoir on the side of the radiator, as well.
After you’ve replaced the coolant, reapply the cap and turn on the engine. If the temperature gauge says normal or the warning light turns off, your engine should be sufficiently cool. Even so, proceed with caution.
Head to the Nearest Service Station
Although adding coolant has gotten you this far, it doesn’t speak to the underlying issue that led to overheating. To answer that question, a trained technician should inspect the vehicle’s cooling system and engine.
For all your vehicle’s maintenance and repair needs, call Fairfax Auto Repair at 703-822-5911 and schedule an appointment today!