What to Do When Your Engine Overheats

A smoking black coupe

As an Amazon Associate, Modded gets commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Summer is coming and the beautiful weather means more and more people will be out on the roads. Occasionally, though, the high temperatures also mean your engine will start overheating while you’re driving down the road or sitting in traffic. What should you do when your engine overheats? What about if your engine starts smoking?

First, What Not to Do

We’ll cover what you should do in a minute. First, here are a few things you shouldn’t do in the event your car starts overheating or smoking:

  1. Don’t panic. Get to the side of the road or a safe spot quickly, but don’t rush or put yourself or other drivers in danger.
  2. Don’t try to open your radiator cap. The pressure that builds up inside your cooling system should make the cap difficult to open, not to mention hot, and if you do open it, it can also throw boiling coolant all over you, resulting in severe burns.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on to what you need to do if your engine overheats.

Overheating Engines

Engines overheat for number of reasons — problems with the thermostat, a faulty water pump, failure of a radiator fan, or a clogged radiator, and that’s just to name a few. Newer cars are designed to shut off to protect your engine in the event it overheats, which can leave you stranded in the middle of the road if you’re not careful.

Here are a few things you can look at if your engine starts overheating:

  • Are there any obvious leaks, either in the radiator, the hoses or the seals?
  • Water level. Once your engine cools and the coolant returns to the reservoir, is it at the proper level?
  • Locate your water pump with the engine running. Is the pully spinning freely? Is the belt spinning the pully properly or is it slipping?
  • Are your radiator fans spinning? If the engine is overheating, the fans should be spinning to try to cool the engine.

If a quick inspection of the engine doesn’t yield any information, the problem may be harder to determine and might take a trip to your local garage.

Smoking Engines

If you notice smoke coming from under your hood, it’s safe to say it’s something that you should get checked out. Old seals, worn piston rings and a variety of other issues can cause smoking from under the hood of your car or from the tail pipe.

Can’t Make It to the Garage?

If you’re unable to make it to the garage, there are a few products you can use to reduce leaks, improve engine performance and help make your car run a little smoother. Bar’s Leaks, for example, provides a troubleshooting guide to help you find the perfect product to suit your needs. This walks you through your problem and shows a variety of products to seal, clean and even repair almost every system in your car. You don’t need to be a car expert to utilize these tools to keep your car running smoothly.

An overheating or smoking engine doesn’t have to signal the end of your road trip. Just keep this information in mind, don’t panic, and be prepared for anything.