How far can you drive an overheating car? [+ 5 Car Overheating Causes]

An engine getting overheated is not a strange phenomenon, especially when it concerns mechanical devices that are constantly in motion.

Do you think it’s usually possible to have a suspicion that your engine is overheating or may develop overheat? Most likely!

It could be frustrating to find yourself in a messy situation that could have been averted if you had read the signs that your car may develop overheating. An overheated engine can become permanently damaged if the cause of the overheating is not corrected.

Just as there is no smoke without fire, even overheating does not just occur. How about we consider the factors that cause overheating in cars?

5 Car Overheating Causes

Several factors cause overheating in cars but everything boils down to a malfunctioning cooling system.

Every automobile has a cooling system that is responsible for removing waste heat from the engine parts.

The system comprises five major components which are the water pump, the freeze plugs, the thermostat, the cooling fans and the radiator. If any of these parts develops a fault, it will automatically cause the engine to overheat.

Your cooling system could be leaking

As a car owner, it is necessary to ensure you always have a bottle of coolant handy. If you happen to notice discolored spots on your car’s parking space, this could suggest that your cooling system is leaking.

If your vehicle runs on an empty coolant reservoir tank for a prolonged period or if the coolant level falls below the recommended mark, an overheating system is inevitable.

Therefore, it is necessary to top off the coolant levels occasionally and also check the tank for leakages that could lead to indiscriminate falls in the coolant levels.

Your radiator could be faulty

An empty radiator is a major turn-off.

The radiator is responsible for disseminating heat within the internal combustion engine. Its mechanism of action involves reducing the coolant temperature, and subsequently the heat from the engine.

The radiator utilizes water to carry out its function and thus, a leaking radiator could hinder it from operating efficiently.

This means that it is necessary to ensure that there is enough water in your radiator at every point in time.

Your water pump may be broken or clogged

A water pump aids the circulation of coolant through the engine and ensures it reaches the vital parts.

A build-up of residue in the coolant can clog the hose and prevent the coolant from moving freely through the pump.

When this happens, it results in the concerned parts not getting the required supply of coolant, hence, overheating occurs.

Your cooling fans could be damaged

Functioning cooling fans are a major prerequisite for the proper functioning of the radiator.

They help to cool it down by ensuring that there is an adequate flow of air to the radiator.

When the cooling fans are incapacitated, the resultant effect is an overheated engine.

Your thermostat may be faulty

As the name implies, a thermostat is a device that helps to regulate the engine temperature.

A damaged thermostat could lead to a build-up of heat. When the engine temperature is way above average, overheating occurs.

Car Overheating Signs

Car overheating signs are usually there. You just have to be observant to notice the pointers, especially seeing your temperature indicator on your dashboard tilting away from the middle mark—towards right.

More often than not, the first pointer usually comes in the form of a smell coming from the engine. It could be a pungent smell, signifying that the engine oil might be leaking or a sweet smell signifying a leaking coolant.

This is usually followed by the forceful emission of smoky fumes from the car’s bonnet.

A noticeable shift on the temperature gauge to the ‘H’ region. It is also known as the red region which denotes that something is amiss.

What should I do when my Engine Overheats?

This can happen to anyone and at any time but the good news is that there is no cause for alarm. Just a few carefully implemented steps can put the situation under control in no time.

If you happen to be in your car when the engine overheats, you do not need to panic. Hold yourself in, take a deep breath and face the problem with confidence.

First and foremost, you need to relieve your engine of any extra stress or burden.

Turning off the air conditioner will go a long way to help. Then, try to channel the heat away from the engine by turning on the heat dial to its maximum level. However, this is only to serve as a form of ‘first aid’ treatment. It is not enough to solve the problem completely.

Also, driving an overheating car is like adding salt to a wound. Once it happens, pull over and turn off the engine to prevent further build-up of heat and allow the engine to cool down.

You can never be too sure of the exact time to restart your engine but you can let your temperature gauge guide you.

When the indicator shifts away from the red region and back to the normal region, it means that the engine temperature is back to normal. At this juncture, you do not want to fire up the engine and go back to square one. It will be advisable to have the car towed to the mechanic shop for repairs.

The main reason here is to prevent further heat build-up and also look for means of ridding the engine of excess heat. Therefore, now would be the perfect time to open up the car hood to release more heat still trapped there.

It is important to know why this is not the first step to take. It is because opening the hood too quickly could result in burns from the boiling water or steam that could suddenly spew up from the hot engine.

You should not be in a hurry. Allow the engine to cool down properly before attempting to go near the bonnet to check or try to fix anything.

You are free to top up your coolant at this time, especially if its level has gone down drastically. This is why having a bottle of coolant handy is never a bad idea. It could help to prevent the car from overheating pending the time you get the problem solved.

Now, all these are not preventable measures and they would not put an end to the problem either. While putting the above-mentioned measures in place could help put the situation under check temporarily, take the car to a mechanic as soon as possible to prevent further damages.

Hence, in answering the question of how far can you drive an overheating car, the answer is that it’s not advisable to drive an overheating car until the cause of the overheating is checked and fixed. If for example, lack of water coolant was the problem, you can simply top it up once the car is cool and drive it slowly to your mechanic’s workshop.

Above all, having the car towed to a mechanic’s workshop is the best solution to avoid further damages to the engine parts.

How can I Prevent my Engine from Overheating?

Nothing can be done about the fact that cars are very unpredictable and could develop faults at any time. However, a lot can be done to stop the preventable from happening.

Getting stuck in an overheating car, subjecting yourself to a few minutes of unbearable heat, taking the risk of coming in contact with a hot surface and going through the stress of hiring a towing vehicle is not worth it.

Here are a few tips to prevent the worst from happening.

  • Get used to running daily check-ups on your engine before the start of your day. Make it a point of duty to check the radiator water level, the engine oil level as well as the coolant level before starting your engine. This way, you would know when to do top offs and renewals.
  • It is one thing to know the source of a problem and it is another thing to be able to proffer immediate, temporary solutions to prevent the problem from escalating. Always have a bottle of coolant and engine oil each in case of unforeseen circumstances, especially engine overheating.
  • Do not get used to the indiscriminate use of your car’s air conditioning. You might want to roll your windows down during summer or extremely hot weather to reduce heat buildup on the engine.
  • Above all, be observant. Pay attention to not just your fuel gauge indicator but also your temperature indicators.

Bottom Line

You can never be too sure of how far you can drive an overheating car.

The only thing certain, however, is that it is never safe to drive an overheating car. If poorly handled, the consequences could be severe. Learn to familiarize yourself with the important car parts, carry out regular maintenance routines and should you find yourself in an unpleasant situation, be articulate and careful in taking immediate actions.

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