What to Do When Your Engine Overheats

For commuters in the Northern Virginia area, we tend to spend a lot of time in our vehicles. With the rise of summer comes a rise in heat and the chance of an overheating engine. If that were to happen to you on your way into work, would you know what to do?

At Casey’s Automotive in Sterling, VA, we want to prepare you for an overheating event so that if it were to happen, you could safely assess the situation. Our team of certified technicians has put together a few tips to keep in mind if your vehicle begins to overheat.

Please note that drivers should have regular auto maintenance inspections done on their vehicles to ensure safety on the road for everyone. In the event of an overheating engine, here is what you can do.

Pullover Immediately and Turn Off the Vehicle

When an engine overheats, it is telling you that your coolant is low. Coolant, or antifreeze, is used to regulate the temperature of the engine. If the refrigerant is low or has not had a recent boost, it can cause overheat or even seize up.

Once the vehicle starts overheating, do not drive it more than a quarter of a mile. Pullover in a safe area and turn off the engine. The best thing to do at this point is to get your ride into an automotive shop for an inspection.

If You Cannot Call for a Tow

If bringing it into the shop is not an option at the time, cautiously follow the next steps. Do NOT open your vehicle’s hood right away. You will have to let it cool down first. Cooling down can take ten to fifteen minutes, and if you are unsure of the temperature, look at the gauge located on your dashboard display.

Do You Have Access to Coolant or Water?

*It is important to note that not every coolant is appropriate for every vehicle. Make sure you refer to your vehicle’s manual

With overheating engines, a 50/50 mixture of water and a coolant/refrigerant is just what you need to solve the problem. Unfortunately, this means you will need to check the coolant level in the reservoir tank. You will be able to find the location of this tank by referring to your vehicle’s manual.

After the engine has had ample time to cool, open the hood and find the radiator cap. MAKE SURE THE CAP IS COOL FIRST! Using a cloth or towel, slowly twist the radiator cap off. It would be best if you use caution while doing this as there could be hot steam ready to leak out. If the coolant is low, pour some coolant into the reservoir tank, and replace the cap, twisting it snug. Before closing the hood, check the hoses seen going in and out of the radiator. See if they are disconnected, broken, or clogged.

Close the hood and restart the engine, then keep your eye on the temperature gauge. Constantly monitor to ensure the temp does not again cross the optimal mark.

Keep in mind; it is only a temporary fix to get you where you need to go for proper service.

Turn on the Heater

So, what if you do not carry water or coolant in your vehicle? Here is a trick that probably seems exceptionally counter-intuitive, but it is the best thing you can do when trying to get to that destination!

By turning on the heat to a full blast, it relieves the engine of heat by distributing it throughout the cabin, preventing the engine from redlining for a short period. Just make sure to roll down all the windows and let the breeze cool you down.

Rev the Engine

If stopped in traffic for a prolonged period an unable to pull over, one way to counteract this is by placing the vehicle in neutral (KEEPING YOUR BRAKES ENGAGED) and revving the engine a few times. Doing this will promote the flow of water and air through the radiator to cool down the engine.

After employing the above steps, the vehicle should not be driven for too long or too far, and must be brought in for service.

Overheated Engine Service at Casey’s Automotive in Sterling, VA

If you notice the temperature in your car or truck is on the rise, bring it by your nearest Casey’s Automotive shop in Chantilly, VA, or Sterling, VA. We will take a thorough look and find the cause of the problem. At Casey’s Automotive, our team of automotive repair specialists performs a wide range of auto maintenance services in Sterling, VA, to get your vehicle running.

The best referral you can get is from a neighbor.