What to Do If Your Car is Overheating

car dashboard showing high temperature

Modern vehicles are now equipped with cooling systems that help control engine temperatures while running. However, cooling systems are not foolproof, which means that engines can still overheat for a variety of reasons. When this happens, it’s better to be prepared and know how to handle the situation. 

Good thing you’ve come to the right place! Here, you will learn what to do if your car is overheating, and more importantly — how to prevent it.

Why Do Car Engines Overheat?

Car engines can overheat for a variety of reasons, but ultimately it has something to do with a faulty cooling system that causes the heat to remain inside the engine compartment. The following are the possible sources of cooling system issues:

  • Leakage
  • Faulty radiator fan
  • Broken water pump
  • Clogged coolant hose

Certain weather and traffic conditions can also contribute to a faulty cooling system, which could eventually cause an engine to overheat. Fortunately, all these issues can be prevented with regular maintenance. 

Note: If you experience any of these issues, address them immediately to avoid further damage to your engine. 

Signs Your Car Engine is Overheating

As much as you want to avoid your engine from overheating,  sometimes it is just out of our control. But what causes an engine to overheat? You can detect as early as possible by understanding the signs of an overheating car. Let us enumerate the signs one by one:

  • Distinct smell of a hot car. You’ll notice an odor that’s combined from the motor oil, plastic, rubber gaskets, and seals. This usually smells out from the outlet of the air conditioner.
  • Temperature gauge lights up. As soon as the temperature gauge lights up, it is a warning sign that a car is overheating and there is uncontrolled heat on the engine.
  • Engine with “tick tock” sound. The engine will start to have a tick tock sound once the oil does not function as lube. The oil’s mass gets slim as the car overheats. 
  • Engine producing a bang noise. The thermostat should be replaced when the cold coolant is in a mixture with hot coolant. The thermostat is designed to block the flow of coolant to the radiator. When it doesn’t function well, a banging noise is heard in your engine.
  • Coolant found on the floor. The cooling system can leak anytime with an overheating car. This is the time when coolant can be seen on the floor under your car while it’s parked.
  • Decreased power. When your car is overheating, it will result in decreased engine power. It will slow down its speed when driving.
  • There is steam from the hood. The most obvious sign that your car is overheating is when there is steam found from your hood. The hood may even be hot itself. This is caused by the boiling coolant in the coolant reservoir. This is a warning to put your car on stop before any harm may occur.

What To Do When Your Car Overheats

Why is my car overheating? Now that you’ve learned the signs, find out what to do next. Here are a few tips for you to remember!

1. Find a safe place to pull over

First, inhale and relax as you slowly look for an area to pull over. Then turn off your engine to cool it off. When in some cases you cannot pull over, switch off your A/C, open your windows and slowly drive to the highway. You may turn on your heater to cool the engine down and switch the hazard lights.

2. Turn off your vehicle

Turn off your vehicle as it will help in calming and cooling down the engine. Then you may get out of the car and open the hood. See to it that the hood is not too hot since it may sting your hands.

3. Check the coolant

Check the coolant level by opening the radiator cap after 30-40 minutes of letting it cool down. Open the cap off and check the coolant level to determine if it’s still enough or not. Look for coolant leakage and refill coolant when needed. 

4. Call for emergency roadside assistance

If you exhausted your energy in trying to cool down or fix your overheating car and still nothing improves, it is best to consider contacting Neighborhood Roadside Assistance in New Jersey to help you through it!

What Not to Do When Your Car Overheats

There are also a few reminders on what not to do when your car overheats. It is best to also familiarize these things as much as what is enumerated above.

1. Don’t keep on driving

To continue driving even when the engine is too hot may cause serious damage to your car. It is basic to simply look for a spot where you can pull over.

2. Don’t open the hood immediately

It is not advisable to open the car hood right away to avoid unnecessary injury. Let it cool down first. 

3. Don’t wait it out

Do not be satisfied with just letting it cool off. You should examine the coolant and its level to assure yourself that everything is well-taken care of. When your car overheats the best option is to let it be assessed by a professional.

How to Prevent Your Car from Overheating

There are many ways you can prevent your car from overheating. Like parking your car in a shady area and avoiding letting it soak under the heat of the sun. You can also opt to have a window tint to help the car remain cooler. Always check on the temperature gauge and add coolant when it’s needed. For serious cases of overheating, you may change your radiator flush or change your car battery to a new one. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions that may help you prevent further damage to your engine.

What happens when you keep on driving an overheated car?

The risk is that you will warp the cylinder heads. Then there will be decreased engine power and lots of oil burning. Other parts of the engine will melt as well. 

How long can you drive an overheated car?

Do not drive more than a mile. Stop the car as soon as possible and turn off the engine. 

Can I pour water on my engine to cool it down?

Never pour cold water or still water on or in an overheating engine, unless you want your engine block to crack. Just open the hood and let your engine cool down naturally. 


To avoid future overheating problems, make sure your vehicle’s cooling system has no lingering issues. Regularly check for coolant levels and observe proper driving habits. All these precautions may not be 100% foolproof as engines may still overheat at any time. But now that you know what to do when a car overheats, you can now drive comfortably without worries.