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What to do if your car overheats

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on June 28th, 2021

Did you know that if your vehicle overheats, you’ve likely got seconds to do the right thing or face a steep repair bill? It’s also important because you can also face serious injury if you don’t handle it properly.

In addition, it’s good to keep in mind your auto insurance policy is there to cover you based on sudden and accidental events – not lack of maintenance or mechanical failure. So, if you’re the type that plays a bit fast and loose with regular maintenance, read on!

Just like humans, engines must operate within a range of temperatures. When people overheat, they might be miserable or tired. Some might even need a few moments of rest, water, or even a cool shower. But if your engine gets too hot, something is wrong.

That’s because your vehicle relies on a continual flow of coolant through the engine, radiator, and back again. If something interrupts the process, engine overheating is the likely culprit, and extensive damage to parts such as gaskets, bearings, pistons, and cylinder heads may be only moments away.

Coolant is usually green or red, so if you’ve been seeing puddles of it on your driveway or garage floor it’s time to visit your mechanic. Now, not later. While the causes of overheating can vary, they usually have one common denominator: lack of maintenance. So here are three tips to ensure your engine doesn’t end up in the junkyard.

Know the signs

An engine overheating is a sign of an emergency. Not a reminder your vehicle should be taken to the shop. You need to act immediately. When your engine overheats, you’ll see a warning light or message in the instrument cluster, possibly accompanied by a chime. If equipped, the coolant temperature gauge will be pointed towards the red ‘danger zone.’

What to do

Two immediate steps to take are 1) Turn off the vehicle’s air conditioning, and 2) Turn on the car’s heater and set the fan at full blast.

Air conditioning puts additional stress on the cooling system, which results in higher temperatures. In contrast, the vehicle’s heater is an internal radiator through which the vehicle’s coolant passes. Turning it on can help keep the engine nearer its proper temperature range.

Get off the road as quickly as possible and turn off the engine. The engine could be seriously damaged if you continue to drive for more than a short distance when it is overheating. Doing so risks catastrophic engine failure and a repair bill in the thousands of dollars.

Once you have safely pulled to the side of the road and turned off the engine, do not immediately open the hood. The super-heated coolant might spew on you and burn your skin. Instead, wait several minutes until you are certain the engine has cooled. Then open the hood.

Consider calling roadside assistance, since you might need a tow. You’ll be parked for a while, waiting for the engine to cool offand you may need to add coolant to the radiator. Do not take the radiator cap off until you are certain the engine has cooled.

How to avoid

Many drivers don’t pay their cooling system any attention on a regular basis, which is why problems can arise, especially on higher-mileage vehicles.

The best way to avoid this problem is to properly maintain your car. Changing your oil regularly and following manufacturer recommendations for coolant system flushes ensures everything works as designed and helps you avoid big repair bills.

Repeated overheating is a sign of serious trouble that needs to be addressed professionally.

RELATED READING: Tips for driving in fog

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