What to Do—and What Not to Do—When Your Car Overheats

October 25, 2021

If you’ve never experienced an overheated vehicle, you may not know what to do when the situation arises. Maybe the air conditioner smells like something is burning, or you notice white smoke coming from under the hood. That can be very alarming!

There are several reasons why your car might be overheating—and the best solution is to get expert help as soon as possible. Here’s what to do when your car overheats.

Why is my car overheating?

Vehicles often overheat because there’s a problem with the engine’s cooling system. There could be a number of causes, including clogged coolant hoses, faulty radiator fans, broken water pumps or cooling system leaks. Your engine temperatures continue to creep upward, and there’s no way for the heat to escape.

Overheated engines are usually characterized by white smoke (steam) billowing from under the hood. You might notice a sweet or burning smell coming from the air conditioner. Finally, if your car has a temperature gauge, check it. If the needle is in the “hot” zone, your car is overheating.

Dos and don’ts

If you notice any of the signs listed above, follow these dos and don’ts for best results:

  • Do pull over as soon as possible: Overheating puts a lot of extra stress on your engine. As soon as it’s safe, pull over and turn off your vehicle. The engine needs to cool down. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes, and keep an eye on the temperature gauge. You may want to take this time to call a tow truck or repair center.
  • Don’t keep driving: The longer you keep driving with an overheated engine, the more likely it is that your car will suffer severe, permanent damage. Resist the temptation to drive—and if you must, wait until the engine cools down and proceed directly to a service center.
  • Do turn off the AC: If it’s not safe to pull over right away, turn off the air conditioner and turn on the heater. This will divert heat away from your engine, which can help reduce the temperature.
  • Don’t open the hood right away: After you pull over, resist the urge to open the hood immediately. The steam that comes out could burn or otherwise injure you. Wait until the temperature gauge says the engine is cool before you pop the hood.
  • Do check your coolant levels: After everything is cooled down, check your coolant levels. You may need to top them off before heading to a repair center.
  • Don’t ignore the problem: Finally, resist the temptation to ignore the problem. Overheating engines are usually a sign of a serious issue, which could permanently damage your engine. To avoid the need for costly repairs or engine replacement, make sure you get your vehicle repaired right away.

When your car overheats, AAA Sandoval Transmissions has the solutions you need. Bring your car to our repair center today. We’ll restore your vehicle to good working order so you can get back on the road safely.

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