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Car engines overheat for a large variety of reasons. There might be a problem with the cooling system, or the engine is being worked too hard. Whatever may be the reason, it is necessary for any car owner and driver to know how to avoid overheating the engine and if it has at all happened, how best to handle it.

How to prevent an engine from overheating

Follow these steps –

  • Be prepared! Always have a gallon of distilled water and a spare gallon of coolant in your trunk when you go on long trips. Distilled water is better than tap water because it has less mineral deposits in it. But tap water will do if you are stranded in the middle of nowhere with only tap water available.
  • Follow the temperature gauge – This might be difficult when you are driving and focussing on the road, but if you try hard enough, it will soon become a habit. Many people fail to notice that the temperature gauge is rising until it is too late.  
  • Check for leaks – At periodical intervals, check below the hood for signs of coolant leakage from the engine area and radiator hoses.
  • Top off coolant – Check coolant levels frequently and top off if necessary.
  • Let the engine cool – If you find the temperature gauge rising, pull over for about 20 minutes and let the engine cool.
  • Use engine fan to cool engine – If you are stuck in slow moving traffic and you face engine overheating issues, shift to neutral and bring the car to 2500 RPMs to increase air and coolant flow. Using header wraps from Kool Wrap is also excellent for restricting the heat to the header and reducing radiant heat in the engine bay.

How to deal with an Overheated engine

Even though you can make the best of efforts to prevent the engine from overheating, at times, you cannot stop it from happening. Here is what you can do in such circumstances.

  • Adjust the A/C – Turn off the air conditioner to lighten the load on the engine. Then, switch on the heater blower and put the temperature to the hottest setting. The interior of the car will get hot, but this means that heat is being taken away from the engine.
  • Stop and rev – Stop your vehicle, put it in neutral and slightly rev the engine. This will increase water and coolant flow in the radiator and the engine.
  • Park on the side of the road – If after a couple of minutes of going through the previous steps, the engine continues to overheat, park safely on the side of the road. Continuing to drive when the engine is overheated will bring the coolant to a boil, resulting in permanent damage to your engine. The hood should not be opened until the engine has cooled. Do not open the hood until the engine has had a chance to cool. Most importantly, do not open the radiator cap until the engine and radiator is cool to the touch.

Have your engine checked as soon as possible. Prolonged overheating can cause head gasket failure or the motor to seize completely.