AutoClinic: How To Manage An Overheating Vehicle

An overheating vehicle can be a pretty serious situation. Failure of one component or the other, even in a well maintained vehicle can cause the engine to overheat, often leading to a total engine shutdown. It becomes even worse if, and when the engine catches fire or completely shuts down, due to excessive heat.

As much as you do your best to prevent this from happening, there are several factors that are beyond your control and can cause over heating to happen. What is most important however, is for you to be prepared by knowing how to deal with the issue. It cannot be overemphasized that, in the quest to manage your vehicle and in particular, an overheating situation the instrument cluster on the dashboard is your best friend. Pay attention to it, observe it, know what every indicator represents, and most importantly, glance at it at regular intervals, while driving.

On the cluster itself, the temperature gauge, or indicator as the case may be, should attract your attention regularly. Any sudden spike, fall or anomaly in its reading, should have you worried, and cause you to seek immediate attention or investigate the cause.

The first step is to analyse why your car over heated.

The first and most common reason is that the cooling fan is has failed. This could be as a result of failure of several things from the Fan relay, to the fan control module, in some cases, to the electric fan motor itself and sometimes the viscous fan clutch.

Another common cause is a broken drive belt or serpentine belt as the case may be, thus impeding the drive of the water pump thereby reducing coolant circulation in the engine.

In some cases it could be that the radiator is clogged up, either internally due to neglect over the years, or the cooling fins on the exterior due to accumulation of debris.

It is however, important to assess the cause first, so you can take necessary steps to fix it.

When you see the first signs of overheating, you should immediately turn off the car’s air conditioner and open all windows, this will decrease the load on the engine and allow it to gradually cool off, the windows will allow cross ventilation of air, into the cabin, for your safety. If this is not helping, you should turn on the heater and the blower; this would help dissipate the heat from the engine, as coolant passes through the heater core get cooled down by the blower fan, through the vents into the passenger compartment.

This may cause some discomfort, but it helps your car engine cool. It is important that you avoid suffocating yourself, by keeping the windows down when the heater is turned on.

Should you pull over because of overheating, you need to be very careful when opening up the engine, to avoid getting scalded with hot coolant/water. Give it sometime to cool off before you attempt to check the engine. This requires patience, which can save you from a bigger problem down the road.

Important point to know when adding coolant/water to an engine, is to avoid doing this when the engine is still steaming hot, let it cool first. If none of these fixes the issue, you want to get your vehicle safely off the road, and get a towing truck. It is a natural reaction to panic when you see your vehicle overheating, however your safety should be your priority. And do not attempt to drive your vehicle unless you are guaranteed that the temperature has been restored to a sane level, otherwise, you risk a very expensive damage to the vehicle power-train.

If you intend to drive a long distance, you need to also be prepared for the possibility of overheating; a gallon of coolant should be part of your carry- on, in case of emergency. Even if you do not have coolant, distilled water which can be harvested from your home air conditioner drain, could serve as a good substitute.

Until next time we come your way again, safe and happy motoring.

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