If the temperature warning light on your dashboard comes on, or there’s steam coming from your bonnet, then it’s likely your coolant levels are low.
Your first action should be to pull over to a safe place, try not to drive more than a quarter of a mile, and then turn off your engine. Then you should take the following action.
Steps to take when your car overheats
Only open the bonnet if you can do this from the inside of the car. If you have to open your bonnet manually, wait until your vehicle has cooled down. Try to leave the engine to cool down for at least 30 minutes or wear gloves to protect your hands when opening.
Once you can look under the bonnet, check the coolant tank near the radiator. The car’s manual will tell you where the coolant tank is.
If your engine has overheated, don’t remove the radiator cap as it’s pressurised, and you could get badly burnt by escaping steam. If you do open the cap, twist off slowly and cover your hand for protection.
If your coolant does need topping up, it should be with the recommended coolant. You should avoid using water as this could damage the engine. Ideally, you should take advantage of your breakdown cover and call in a mechanic to help.
When you restart your engine, monitor your temperature gauge. If the light comes on again, pull over and turn the engine off.
What causes cars to overheat?
The most common reason for overheating is a problem with the car’s cooling system such as low coolant levels or a problem with the circulation. Also, high temperatures of 30C and above can cause problems, particularly for older cars.
If your coolant is empty, it’s likely you have a leak. Take a look under the car for signs of a puddle. The radiator hose or heater hoses could be blocked or damaged. If your temperature light is coming on repeatedly, this is a sign that there’s a problem with your cooling system and you should get your car into a garage.
If your coolant is full, then there could be a mechanical problem with your engine. And, again, you should get your car to a garage as soon as possible.
How to prevent your vehicle from overheating
If you’re worried about your car overheating, keep an eye on the temperature gauge and coolant levels. Make sure you have the appropriate coolant for your car and top up if levels are low.
You should carry extra coolant in your car in case you need to top up in an emergency. Try to park your car in a shaded area in hot weather and keep air flowing around the cabin to keep the vehicle’s temperature down.
By regularly servicing your car and having your cooling system flushed out and cleaned, you should avoid the problem of overheating. Most garages will recommend having this done every 40,000 miles.
However, it’s always a good idea to have breakdown cover in case of an emergency.
Would you like us to take a look at your vehicle’s cooling system?
Foster & Heanes offers car servicing, maintenance and repair for all makes and models of vehicles including classic and vintage cars. We can arrange free collection and delivery if you live near our Fleet or Dogmersfield service centres.