What to Do if Your Car Overheats While Driving

Posted on by Defensive Driving | in Defensive Driving Tips

You know that scene in the movies where a car starts to overheat and steam starts pouring out of the sides of the hood at a rapid pace. In this example, it is pretty clear that the car is overheating, but in real life it may not be so black and white.

That is why your car has a handy little tool called the temperature gauge. If you are not in the practice of checking it every once in a while, you need to make it a habit, especially now that warmer temperatures are here.

So what do I do if I notice the temperature of my engine is above normal?

CarCare.org reports that the first thing you need to do is turn the A/C off and blast the heater. Since most cars overheat in the summertime, this can be a little bit miserable, but it is worth it to save your car. By blasting the heat you are taking the warm air away from the engine. If the temperature gauge does not go down, it is time to pull over.

What if I am stuck in traffic?

Good question. It is not always possible to pull over immediately. In this case, you want to make your engine work as little as possible. If you are in stop-and-go traffic, try to coast instead of braking on and off. If you are stopped at a light, put your car into park or neutral and rev your engine. This will help water and airflow get into the radiator to cool it down until you can reach a stopping point.

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Okay, I have pulled over. Now what?

First and foremost, turn your car off. This is very important. DO NOT IDLE. It makes your engine work even harder than when you were cruising. Next, you need to determine if you are handy at working on your car or not. If not, this is the time to call for help. If you are feeling confident, pop your hood and wait about 30 minutes for the engine to cool. Then you can check your coolant level to see if it is full. If it is not, you can fill it temporarily with water (unless you have coolant on hand) to get yourself to a mechanic. If you are ever unsure if it is safe to drive, always err on the side of caution.

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