The first sign of a car overheating is either when the needle on the temperature gauge pushes its way into the ominous red zone or the ‘Check Engine’ or ‘Temperature’ malfunction indicator lights on the dashboard casts a sinister glow. Left alone, the liquid in the radiator eventually boils over, and steam rolls out from under the bonnet.
If your car overheats often or constantly loses coolant, the problem may be leaks in your cooling system. If your car overheats in normal weather and on normal traffic, you may need to add liquid to the system, replace the thermostat, adjust or replace the accessory belt, or check the water pump. The first thing to check if your car engine overheats often is the pressure cap. Sometimes the gasket on the pressure cap deteriorates and let’s pressure escape, which causes the cooling system to malfunction. Most service stations can the pressure for proper operation.
However, perennial overheating problems aren’t related to the cooling system. Here are other circumstances that can cause a car’s engine to overheat:
If the ignition system is malfunctioning, late timing may be causing your car to overheat because the spark plugs are firing the fuel/air mixture after the piston moves back down from the top of its stroke. Late timing alone doesn’t cause an engine to overheat by more than a few degrees. But when coupled with other problems, it can bring the engine temperature to a critical point. Have a mechanic place your car on an electronic diagnostic machine to check your timing valve and adjust it if necessary.
Because plugged radiators cut down on the system’s liquid circulation, the system can’t cool efficiently. The remedy is to have a radiator specialist remove and inspect the radiator. If you’re lucky, just steam-cleaning the radiator does the job; if you’re not, the solution may be more expensive.
Slipping accessory belt
If you can see and reach the accessory belt that drives the water pump, check to be sure that there’s no more than about 1⁄2 inch of give. If the belt seems loose or frayed, replace it. If you can’t do the job, have a professional deal with it.
Collapsing bottom radiator hose
Occasionally, a bottom radiator hose begins to collapse under the vacuum that the water pump creates, and the impaired circulation causes overheating.
Low oil level
A car that’s low on oil tends to overheat because the engine oil removes from 75 to 80 per cent of the “waste heat” in the engine, in addition to doing its other job of cushioning the moving engine parts.
Note: Under normal circumstances, you can prevent overheating by checking the level of liquid in the cooling system and the correct engine oil level as well.
Tip: If you’re one quart low in oil and your car holds five quarts, the oil will carry away 20 percent less heat than it should.
If the problem still persist consider taking the car to one of our recommended garages for a check-up.