October 31, 2017

What To Do if Your Oklahoma Used Car Overheats

Summer is just around the corner here in Oklahoma, and that means it’s about to get hot. One of the biggest dangers that Oklahoma’s climate poses to drivers it the chance that your car could overheat while you’re on the road. To minimize the chances of your Oklahoma City used car overheating and leaving you with a hefty repair bill, you should know what overheating is and how you can prevent it.

What Causes Cars to Overheat?

Overheating is caused by your car’s engine simply getting hotter than the cooling system can cope with. When an engine gets too hot, it can cause it to run poorly and create large amounts of damage. But why do car engines overheat? To understand how cars overheat, it helps to know how they stay cool in the first place.

A car’s engine is kept cool using a system of pumps, radiators, fans, and pipes that move coolant around the engine. The coolant starts off cold at the radiator, and as it is pumped through the engine bay it absorbs heat, getting hotter as it goes. By the time the coolant circulates around the engine a few times, it can easily reach temperatures of 200-plus degrees.

To release the heat in the coolant, it passes through the radiator, a series of very thin pipes with a strong fan blowing over them. The moving air passing over the radiator cools the coolant back down, allowing it to absorb more heat from the engine to keep it cool.

This system works well most of the time, but conditions like extreme outside temperatures, low coolant levels, clogged coolant pipes, or broken radiator fans (to name a few) can all interfere with the cooling system’s ability to cool the engine. That, in turn, can lead to the engine running too hot – in other words, overheating.

How Do I Know If My Car Is Overheating?

Unlike other engine problems, overheating doesn’t always have immediately obvious signs. The first and clearest sign most people will notice is the temperature gauge on their dashboard climbing into the red. In some cars, either the “Check Engine” or a red “Temperature” warning light will come on as well.

If you ignore, or just don’t notice, these warning signs, the next symptom you’ll see is a cloud of white steam pouring out from under your hood. This happens when the engine coolant can’t take the heat any longer and boils over.

In some cases you might notice a problem with your cooling system before the car overheats. The most frequent symptom of a coolant leak or other cooling system problem is the smell it makes around your car. Antifreeze coolant usually has a sweet, sugary smell – many people say it smells like hot maple syrup. If you notice that smell around your car after you’ve been driving for a while, get your cooling system checked right away.

What To Do If Your Engine Overheats

As we mentioned above, overheating can happen for a variety of reasons, but it almost always occurs after your engine has been running for a while. That means you’ll probably be out on the road if it happens to you, instead of in your own driveway or a parking lot.

If you notice your car overheating while you’re driving at normal highway speeds, you should perform the following steps as quickly as possible:

  • Turn off the air conditioner and turn the heater on full blast. This will reduce load on the cooling system and let the engine vent a little more heat.
  • Roll down your windows to let the heat out of your car’s cabin.
  • Pull over and shut off the engine, then carefully open the hood to allow more air to reach the engine. Allow the engine to rest and cool down for a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Do NOT attempt to open the radiator to add more coolant unless you’re absolutely sure the cooling system has cooled down completely. Engine cooling systems are pressurized, and opening the radiator cap while the system is hot could result in you getting sprayed with near-boiling coolant and superheated steam.
  • If the coolant is not boiling over and you can’t see any burst hoses or broken belts, you can close the hood and attempt to drive slowly to a service center. If you’re too far from a garage, or if something under the hood is obviously broken, you should call for a tow.

Additionally, in some cases your car might start to overheat when you’re sitting in traffic or driving slowly. In these cases, you can also try the following steps:

  • Shift the car into neutral or park and rev the engine slightly. This will cause the engine fan and coolant pump to run a little faster, which in turn will help cool the engine more.
  • If possible, drive a little faster or more smoothly to increase airflow over the engine. Don’t ride your brakes or accelerate too fast, as that will cause the engine to heat up quickly.

If these steps don’t cause your temperature gauge to go back down, follow the first set of steps and wait for your car to cool back down.

You can avoid heat problems in your engine by regularly checking your engine’s coolant levels and getting it serviced at the proper intervals according to the manual. Also, make sure to keep an eye on the temperature gauge when you’re driving slowly or in hot weather to catch any problems before they become serious.

Tired of dealing with your car giving you problems? Trade it in for a quality used car at The KEY in Oklahoma City! Our cars are late-model and low-mileage, and each one comes with a 10 year limited warranty, so you’ll never need to worry about it failing you. Visit our used car lot today just off I-240 in Oklahoma City, or take a look at our other helpful tips and advice on our Twitter Page.


Return to blog