How to Stop a Car from Overheating While Driving (8 Ways)

It is likely that most car owners have faced engine heating issues at some point during their driving sessions. However, if they exchange their vehicles every 2-3 years, they might have no trouble with their car engines.

But if we know the simple causes behind such overheating car engine issues, it won’t be difficult for us to handle it on our own. And it is preferable that every car owner know how to fix overheating car engines so that they do not face any major issues while on the road as such overheating engines, if not treated on time, can lead to severe damages.

In this article, we are going to discuss the reasons behind overheated car engines, symptoms of car overheating, and how to fix them! We are also going to discuss all other helpful information.

Read on to know more…

What Causes a Car to Overheat?

Why does my car overheat when driving but not when idling? Why does the car engine get overheated even if the car is of a new model? Why is my car overheating with a new thermostat? Have you asked yourself these questions frequently as you faced car engine heating issues? Well, not all of us are aware of the fact that what actually causes our car engines to heat. And to discuss that, the following section is formed. Go through it and encounter the reasons behind overheating car engines…

Cause #1: Too Little or No Coolant

Ever wondered what causes your vehicle to overheat? Sometimes people fail to inspect the car engine’s coolant presence regularly, which leads to little or no coolant left in the car engine. So, is the coolant so necessary? Obviously yes! The coolant in the car engine is the ultimate source to cool down the engine when it gets heated while driving for long hours. The coolant in the cooling system absorbs the excess heat from the engine and then cools it down in the radiator. After the heat is lost, it starts the cycle again and keeps absorbing the heat and thereby cools it down throughout the driving sessions. But in due course, it becomes lesser in quantity as the cycle continues. Thus, you must keep checking whether there is enough coolant in the engine so that it does not cause any engine heating issues further.

Cause #2: A Leak in the Cooling System

Now, some people may still be thinking, why is my car overheating but it has coolant in it? Sometimes, even if there is enough coolant in the car engine, it may still lead to heating of the car engine. Why, though? It’s because there might be a leakage in the cooling system that sucks air through it, and the coolant drips out of it. The air that enters through the leakage takes the shape of a big bubble and blocks the top part of the cooling system forming an airlock that does not allow the coolant to do its work, and hence, the engine overheats. Take your car to a mechanic if you encounter any such issues with your car engine so that the problem does not expand.

Cause #3: Poor Coolant Circulation

There are various reasons for an overheated car engine. And if you are wondering what can cause a car to overheat while driving, then you must know that when the coolant has poor circulation, it might lead to overheating. Sometimes, due to bad weather conditions, the coolant may get condensed inside the system, which may lead to poor circulation. Also, sometimes there might be a blockage in the system due to foreign particles, mineral deposits, or defective thermostats that can lead to poor coolant circulation, which in turn heats up the engine system deliberately. Such blockage or insufficient coolant circulation can damage the radiator of the car engine if proper actions are not taken immediately.

Cause #4: A Broken Water Pump

A broken water pump is also what causes a car to overheat! Even if you have enough coolant in the car engine, it might still make the car heat up deliberately if the water pump is not functioning properly or is broken. The function of the water pump is to circulate the coolant through the cooling system of the car engine. Mostly, the coolant is in water form, but these days it also comes up with antifreeze properties, and thus, a water pump is needed for its circulation. If somehow, the water pump is faulty or is broken then the circulation won’t be carried out properly which will evidently lead to heating up of the car engine. So, the next time you find out that your car engine is overheating, check out for a faulty or broken water pump.

Cause #5: Low Engine Oil Level

Do you break your head thinking, why is my car running hot even if the coolant and the cooling system are running properly! Well, there is stuff other than these that contribute to the overheated car engines, and low engine oil level is definitely one significant reason behind such overheating issues. The engine oil itself acts as a cooling agent and removes up to 75-80 % of the excess heat present in the engine. Not only this, but it also helps in lubrication of the engine, prevents friction, and reduces subsequent overheating of the car engine. Thus, if you feel your car engine is running hotter than usual, check for the engine oil, and if it is low, fill it up immediately.

Cause #6: Thermostat Failure

Many people would think about what would cause a car to overheat if they regularly check the coolant content and other stuff of the cooling system. Well, sometimes the overheating is caused beyond the cooling system as well. For example, the thermostat of the car engine radiator is one important part that contributes to the overheating car engine. When you start the car engine initially, the thermostat’s valve remains closed, and the coolant doesn’t circulate, but as soon as the car engine reaches the operating temperature, the valve opens, and the coolant begins to circulate. But if the thermostat is faulty, the valves will not open, and that will lead to an overheating engine. So, check for a thermostat failure if all the other stuff mentioned above is doing fine!

Cause #7: Clogged or Bad Radiator

Most of us do not know how to stop a car from overheating while driving, even though we are licensed drivers! It is because the cause behind engine overheating is not always the same, and it differs in different situations. One of the prominent reasons behind such overheating is a clogged or bad radiator. A radiator is where the coolant cools down while passing through the system. It may be that sometimes the radiator fans do not work correctly, or the cap is somewhat damaged because of an accident which will lead to simply boiling off of the coolant without it getting cooler. So this can also cause the engine to overheat deliberately. So, if you find any such issues with the radiator, get it fixed soon to prevent overheating the car engine.

Cause #8: Loose or Broken Belts

We often wonder what to do when a car overheats, as usually, there is limited stuff that we can understand about the overheated can engines. And as the entire cooling system encircles around the functioning of the coolant, every bit that contributes to the process is worthy enough to be taken into consideration for the cause of overheating. So, a loose or broken belt of the cooling system is also a reason why a car engine overheats. It helps the water pump to run smoothly and move the coolant through the system. But if the belts are loose or broken, the water pump would certainly not be able to function properly, leading to an overheated car engine. So, next time you face overheating issues, ensure you fix the loose belt or get the broken ones replaced!

Cause #9: Worn Out or Burst Hoses

What is the main cause of engine overheating? Of Course, improper coolant movement or no presence of coolant is the major reason behind engine overheating! And thus, everything related to its proper functioning is considered to be essential if and when your car engine overheats. The hoses through which the coolant passes on to the car engine also play a significant role in maintaining the heat balance of the car. Thus, if it becomes worn out or gets burst automatically, the coolant pathway will be blocked, which would make the engine hotter. So, if you find that all other parts are working fine and still there are persisting engine overheating issues, you must check on the hoses of the cooling system.

Cause #10: Blown Head Gasket

Last but not least, if you are desperate to know how to stop a car from overheating, then do check out for the vehicle’s head gasket. It is that part of the car which keeps the cylinder and the engine block separate. Thus, it plays a pretty significant role in being the barrier between the coolant and the engine oil. So, if it gets blown out somehow, the oil might get into the cooling system, and the coolant might get into the combustion chamber. And if this happens, there might be coolant leakage that will eventually lead to reduced coolant presence on the vehicle. And as we know, less or concentrated coolant is one of the major causes of car engine overheating.

How to Tell If Your Car is Overheating?

Now that you are familiar with the engine overheating causes, you must also know the symptoms of car engine heating so that you can detect it at the earliest and prevent any kind of extended damages for late detection of the overheating issue. So, here are some of the car overheating symptoms that you must know so that you can prevent major damages caused by the overheating car engine. Read on to find out

Temperature Gauge in the Red Zone

This is one of the casual signs your car is overheating! There is a digital or manual temperature gauge present in almost all types of vehicles that indicates the car engine’s temperature. When the needle of the engine gauge is placed appropriately in the middle of the gauge, it indicates that the temperature of the car engine is in the right place, which means it’s normal. But if you notice that the needle is going up, so much so that it falls on the red zone, then you must know that there is a problem with your car engine, which is causing it to overheat. Of course, in rare cases, the temperature gauge can be faulty to show such signs, but that is of course known by the car owners from before.

Thumping or Ticking Sound

So, apart from the temperature gauge indication, how do you know if your car is overheating? Well, if you get to hear thumping or ticking sounds coming from inside the car engine, then you must know that there’s a problem in there. These types of sound come when the engine oil is heated diligently and loses its lubrication properties. And when the temperature rises up, the mechanical parts of the engine keep clicking against each other, producing such audible thumping or ticking noise coming out from the engine. So, if you experience any such sound while driving, you must soon stop the car and check for the car engine temperature instantly.

Coolant Leaking on the Ground

If you notice coolant accumulation under your car, then you must consider it as one of the warning signs that your car is overheating. It can be because of coolant leakage from the cooling system of the car engine. On the other hand, the coolant accumulation can also be due to an overheated engine that might have led to overboiling the coolant and causing overflow of the tank inside the radiator because of the higher pressure inside it. So, it is evident that when you notice an overflowing coolant from inside your car engine cooling system, you must acknowledge the fact that your car engine is overheating, and thereby you have to take the necessary precautions to fix it sooner!

Unusual Smell

If you are still wondering what are the signs of car overheating then consider the unusual smell coming from the car engine as one of the most significant symptoms of overheating the car engine. But one must learn to distinguish between ‘hot’ smell and ‘sweet’ smell. The hot, smoky smell comes from the engine when the engine oil is overheated, which breaks the engine’s lubrication. And the sweet smell comes from coolant leakage that also occurs due to an overheated engine. So, if you can distinguish between the two types of unusual smells coming out from your car engine, you will be able to fix the issue that is causing the overheating at the earliest.

Steam from Engine

This is one of the inevitable reasons for what causes a car to overheat! It is also one of the most sought-after and visible signs of an overheating car engine. When the coolant inside the car is not circulating properly and gets stuck in the radiator, it starts getting boiled in the coolant reservoir and can give rise to the steam from inside the hood. Sometimes, if the radiator cap is not too tight or is not functioning correctly, it can also lead to boiling coolant that might give rise to steaming. If such steaming occurs, you MUST not keep driving and stop your car to check the matter. If possible, take it to the nearby service station to fix the issue as soon as possible to avoid any further damage.

Poor Acceleration

People wonder what are the symptoms of car overheating as there are not many of them to rely on. However, one of the primary symptoms of car engine overheating is poor acceleration. This is because when the car engine overheats, the pistons that are present on the cylinder bore will eventually expand. When this happens, the rotation ability of the crankshaft becomes limited, and hence the power supply to create enough acceleration gets decreased. So, when this happens, it will either not make the car accelerate, or it will take more than usual to accelerate. Either way, you have to take it to the service station to get it fixed and run your car smoothly after that.

How to Stop a Car from Overheating While Driving

Most people get panicked while driving a car if it gets overheated. While some of us know how to tackle the situation, most of us do not know what to do when a car overheats! And if you keep on driving the vehicle with an overheated engine, it might lead to uncanny conditions that can be very unfortunate too! In the section below, you will know how to stop a car from overheating while driving in 8 simple steps to prevent extensive damages. Read on…

Pull Over and Park Your Car in the Shade

Every car owner/driver must know what to do when your car overheats to prevent damages that can cost both money and the rider’s life! And the first and foremost thing that the car owners must do is pull over and then park the car in a shaded area.

Choosing a shaded area to park the car in such situations is recommended because if you park the car under direct sunlight, it may lead to more heating of the car engine than helping in the cooling process. Once you park your vehicle in a shaded area, let it cool for at least 30 minutes before you open the hood to check what’s wrong inside! You must also check the temperature gauge so that you can understand when is the right time to open the hood.

While you wait, you can utilize the time to call a nearby car service station (if the overheating is too grave), or you can look out for any car mechanic who can help you in fixing the damages in case there is any! When the car is cooled down to normal temperature, open the hood, check out for the issue inside, and find out what’s causing the rise in temperature.

Turn Off the Air Conditioning to Reduce Engine Load

Most of us switch on the car AC in the summer season to be comfortable in our journeys. But we forget that prolonged air conditioning can burden the engine of the car, deliberately causing it to overheat at times. So, what to do if your car is overheating? Turn off the AC immediately! It may be discomforting for you a bit as traveling with the AC has become a common phenomenon amongst car owners but enjoying the natural air is fun too!

As the AC burdens the engine, when it is turned off, it is bound to reduce the engine’s workload, leading it to cool down after getting overheated. On the other hand, if you keep driving with the AC on even after the engine is overheated, it may lead to extensive damages to the car engine, which may burn your pocket aggressively.

After you turn off the AC, you must allow your car to cool down, and then you can restart again to drive to your destination. Sometimes, even if you turn off the AC, the overheating may persist, and that is why you must inspect what is causing the overheating so that you can control the further damages and repair the issue as soon as possible.

Turn on the Heater and Fans to Cool the Engine

Sometimes, if you want to know how to stop a car from overheating while driving, you must look out for counterintuitive solutions! Wondering how? Well, to beat the heat, you may arrange for more heat! Are you still confused? Let us make it more clear. When you face car engine overheating issues, try turning on the heater and fans to balance the heat on the car engine that causes the overheating.

When you turn on the heater, the warmth of the car engine is carried away and transferred to the passenger compartment of the car. And when the heat is carried away, the engine burden is lessened that can cool down the overheating engine to a certain extent. Sometimes, if there are no more issues with the car cooling system and the engine, this simple step can be enough to handle overheating cars.

But sometimes, the problems can persist, and thus you must be extra careful when the car engine faces overheating conditions and cross-check for any kind of other issues so that they can be fixed on time. You must check the temperature gauge for signs of a normal temperature to ensure the car engine overheating conditions.

Let the Engine Cool and Then Open the Hood

So, after you have tried switching off the air conditioner and turning on the car’s heater, you must still wait for some time to start your inspection. Then, when you pull over the car and park it in the shade, you are only halfway through the cooling process; having patience is still on the chart.

It would be best if you waited for the engine to cool down before you can start with the further process of introspection and repair. So, how long does it take for a car to cool down? According to automobile experts and most car owners, it takes almost 30 minutes to cool down properly in cases where the overheating is not too severe.

In some instances, if the overheating is very severe and not equal to boiling hotness, you must wait for an hour or two before opening the hood of the car. One thing that you can do after parking your vehicle is loosening the bonnets so that the engine cools down faster than usual.

Once the engine cools down and the hood can be opened, you can go ahead with acknowledging what’s the issue inside that is causing the overheating of the car engine. You may then figure out whether your car needs servicing or whether you can fix the problem by yourself!

Open All the Windows and Doors of Your Car

Are you still wondering if your car is overheating what should you do? Well, worry not! You always have a way out of the blues in such instances. Though the situation is handled well when you pull over the car and park it in a safe and shaded area and also switch off the AC and turn on the heater, yet if you still find the situation uncontrollable, you must follow this step.

You must open the windows and doors of the car if the overheating remains persisting. Sometimes, the overheating can take the shape of something bigger, which can eventually lead to bursts also if the heat does not find a way out. So, opening the windows and doors of the car will help in passing out of the heat and would not let the heat build-up inside the vehicle.

It is only when the car cools down, and you are done with the introspection, you can restart the car and shut the doors and windows again. If you still find the problem persists, then take your car immediately to a car mechanic while keeping the windows wide open.

Check and Add Coolant (If Your Coolant Level is Low)

Sometimes you might have noticed that the car is overheating with full coolant, but sometimes, the coolant level might be reduced or nil that can cause the car engine to overheat gradually. So, after you are done executing the steps mentioned above, you must open the hood of the car and check for the coolant level.

If the coolant level is low, you must add coolant to the car engine to control the overheating issues. In addition, you must always keep an extra bottle of coolant in your car whenever you go out for a long drive, as the coolant can dry out any time without your knowledge. So, if the coolant level is low, you must add extra coolant and help in cooling down the car engine.

When you add the coolant, keep in mind you must include half water and half antifreeze in the radiator until the liquid touches the full line. Not only in the radiator, but you must also add the coolant on the overflow reservoir that is mounted on the side of the radiator to allow more heat prevention. Like this, you can control the overheating engine if the coolant presence is nil or reduced.

Keep Your Eye on the Temperature Gauge

A major hack to fix car overheating is to first understand how much heating is overheating. And to know that well, you must keep an eye on the temperature gauge of the vehicle. When the car engine doesn’t overheat, the needle of the temperature gauge will be pointed in the middle that shows normal temperature.

But if the temperature gauge needle starts deflecting and falls beyond the normal range towards the red zone, then you must understand that the car engine is overheating. The steps mentioned above are the nominal procedures to follow when the car engine overheats while driving. So, when you finally complete these procedures, you must re-check the temperature gauge to verify whether the car engine is still overheating or showing the normal sign.

And if you notice that the needle of the temperature gauge is in the middle position and it does not indicate any overheating issues, you are good to go. But if it indicates a rising temperature again, in that case, you should know that your car needs an expert mechanic to solve the overheating problems, and it won’t be just solved by adding coolant and following the given steps.

Restart the Engine and Drive to a Service Station

Out of all the car engine overheating solutions, this one comes last. Why, though? Because sometimes the issues are not too severe and you can solve them on your own. But if the overheating persists for a more extended period and you find out that even after adding coolant or following the steps as mentioned above, and things do not come in control, in that case, the last thing that you must do is to take your car to a service station.

But you must not do that while driving. At first, you should DIY the given methods or steps to cool down the engine and try to solve the overheating issues all by yourself. If at all, things do not get fixed, and your car engine still becomes overheated, take it to a service station.

When you take your car to a service station, they will diagnose the problem well, and then they will also fix the overheating issues so that the problem does not come over repeatedly. If at all you do not want to take your car to a service station, try to find out what is causing the overheating and then fix it as soon as possible to avoid any further damages.

What Happens If Your Car Overheats and You Keep Driving?

If you keep driving your car even after it gets hotter, you may face certain consequences which you may never want to face in the first place! So, what happens if you keep driving an overheated car? Well, there is no single line answer to this; there are multiple effects of driving overheated vehicles, and some significant ones are mentioned below…

Damaged radiator- if your car engine is overheating, it is likely that the car radiator is already damaged. But if you keep on driving in spite of the overheating engine, it might cause more harm to the radiator. The cooling system might explode, and the radiator stems might fail along with damaging the hoses. So, what to do when your car overheats? STOP soon!

Broken head gasket- if you keep driving your car despite the overheated engine, the head gasket might get blown. And when it happens, the engine oil and the coolant can get mixed, causing steam production. So, now you know what happens if your car overheats and you keep driving!

Damaged engine- apart from a damaged radiator and blown-up head gasket, the severity of driving an overheated car can also lead to a damaged engine. Warped metal, frozen plugs, cranks, piston damage, etc., are some serious issues that can arise when you keep driving with an overheated car.

Burnt pocket- what to do if your car is overheating? Obviously, stop as soon as you figure it out so that you save your pocket from burning! Yes, when you keep driving for a prolonged time period when the car is heated, it can cause considerable damages that can be very expensive to be repaired.

How Far Can You Drive an Overheating Car?

So, now that you know what to do when your car overheats (stop obviously), you must be curious to know to what distance you can drive safely with a heated vehicle without causing extensive damage.

Many car owners wonder how many miles can you drive an overheating car or how many minutes/hours is it safe to drive the vehicle with overheating issues but to be precise; there’s no definite answer to such questions. It is because the extent of driving the car without causing damage, even if the engine is overheated, cannot be measured precisely.

It can be that sometimes you have driven almost 40 miles with an overheated engine and still there is no visible or internal damage to the car, while sometimes you might have just driven 10-20 miles which have caused extensive damage to the car interior! So, how long can you drive an overheating car, or how many miles is it safe to drive with an overheated car? Unfortunately, it cannot be answered!

But it is suggested that you stop the car as soon as you find out the overheating issues and find any service station nearby to avoid any further major damage. But, of course, it also depends on the car capacity and ability to decide how far you can drive an overheating car without causing any damage!

How Long Does It Take for a Car to Cool Down After Overheating?

Even if you have parked your car aside after experiencing the overheating conditions, you must know that fact that you cannot immediately start with the inspection process as it takes time for the car engine to cool down! But how long does it take for a car to cool down? On average, it takes around 30-40 minutes to cool down entirely and become safe to be handled by you.

In rare cases, it can also lead to a cooling-down time of around 1-2 hours, depending upon the intensity of the heating. You might have noticed that when you turn off the car engine, the fan still keeps running. It is because of the fact that it is trying to cool down the machine, and thus, you cannot operate on it while it’s hot (it can be dangerous!)

If you see smoke coming out from below the hood, you should wait for a maximum of 1-2 hours before you can open it. You must also check the temperature gauge to understand the hotness of the car engine. So, if you wonder how long it takes for a car to cool down after overheating, consider 1-2 hours as the safe time to try to inspect the problem and then go for the repair.

What to Do When Your Car Overheats? [FAQs]:

Even though we know what causes a car to overheat or what to do when it does, there are still some questions that car owners search for an answer to; Like why is my car overheating with a new thermostat and radiator or why the car is overheating even when there is enough coolant in it, etc. So, to clear such doubts, the following FAQs section is formed. Go through it and get to know the answers clearly!

Why Is My Car Overheating but It Has Coolant in It?

If you are a car owner, you might have noticed often that the car has coolant but is still overheating. The first and foremost reason behind an overheating car is, of course, less or no coolant, but there are reasons beyond this that cause the car engine to overheat. Like radiator cap failures or clogged radiator issues, blockage in coolant circulation, cooling system failure, etc. In such cases, even if there is optimum coolant present in your car’s engine, it will still lead to overeating and can be destructive if necessary steps are not taken immediately.

Why Is My Car Overheating with a New Thermostat?

Though the major cause of engine heating is no or less coolant, at times, a damaged thermostat can also lead to overheating. And in such cases, the replacement of the car thermostat can be a beneficial move. But what if you find the car still overheating after replacing the thermostat and water pump? In such instances, the problem might not be the thermostats in the first place. Instead, it might be a faulty radiator cap, a faulty water pump, a worn-out belt, or a clogged radiator. Sometimes it can also be less or no coolant presence. So, if you have replaced your car’s thermostat and you still face overheating issues, focus on these parts.

Why Does My Car Overheat When Idling?

If you are regularly driving, then you must have noticed quite a few times that the car temperature gauge rises when idling, whether at a car parking stop or in a traffic jam. This happens due to some specific reason that includes a broken radiator fan that doesn’t circulate the coolant smoothly, contaminated or low coolant presence, and a bad or damaged thermostat that doesn’t open the valve. So, the next time you find out that your car is overheating when idling and the temperature gauge shows red signs, check these parts and verify what is causing the overheating.

How to Stop a Car from Overheating While Driving – Author’s View

Most car owners face major car engine heating issues when the car runs for too long, or it is an old one. You cannot always expect an engine to run smoother as there are certain things that must be perfect for it to run smoothly. By far, we have gone through the symptoms of overheating car engines, what are 10 common causes of overheating, how to fix the car heating issues, and other related matters.

While most of us do not take car engine heating very seriously, it can cause severe damages to the car (and the people on board) if necessary precautions are not taken on time. From the 8 simple and best ways to stop a car from overheating while driving mentioned above in this guide, out of which I would personally recommend a few to follow instantly if your car gets hotter while you drive.

Firstly you must Pull Over and Park Your Car in the Shade as this is the most significant step to do if the car gets heated. Because you never know what are the dangers of driving an overheated car! Next, you must Turn on the Heater and Fans to Cool the Engine and then open the hood when it has become cooler.

After that, add coolant if you find it inadequate as the most inevitable reason behind car engine heating is less or no coolant presence. Then restart to check if the heating continues, slowly drive it to a nearby service station to get the issues fixed. So, as now you know exactly what to do if your car is overheating, go ahead drive your vehicle smoothly without any problem!

About Amy Cuban

I am an automotive enthusiast who loves to be around cars. I enjoy working on cars in my spare time and love anything related to automobiles. I like using different types of car accessories, car gadgets, and innovative car care products.

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