What do you do when your car overheats


It may be a flashing light on your dashboard.
Or, the thermometer needle slips into the red zone.
Or perhaps a reading on the dashboard screen that says “Temperature Warning.”
Or it could be waves of steam rising from under the hood.
Somehow your car is telling you it’s too hot.

So what do you do when your car overheats?

car temperature gauge

  1. First, you have to stop safely. If possible, find a gas station, roadside rest stop, or activity that you can get into. They may also have water and/or tools that you will need.
  2. Do not take off the radiator cap! this is important. You need to wait for your engine to cool down before removing the radiator cap. If you remove it too soon, the steam can seriously burn you.
  3. Wait for your engine to cool down. While you wait, you can open the hood and look for signs of a broken hose or a coolant leak. However, use common sense. If there is steam coming out of the hood, give it some time to cool down before trying to check for damage.
  4. Once the engine has cooled down, you can remove the coolant cap or coolant reservoir cap. You may not need to remove the cap at all if you have a clear coolant reservoir where you can see the coolant level.
  5. Add coolant if it is less than the full line. If your car is overheating, you will likely need to add coolant. There are several different types, so consult your owner’s manual for the type your vehicle needs. If you don’t have coolant, you can add some bottled water for a temporary fix. Although, you may want to check your warranty to make sure nothing is voided.
  6. Bring your car to a mechanic to find out why the car is losing coolant. Your car’s cooling system is designed to be completely shut off and any signs of losing coolant can indicate problems.

How to prevent the car from overheating

There are some precautions you can take to help reduce the possibility of your car overheating. Essentially, keeping up with your vehicle’s maintenance.

  • Change the oil regularly. Most lubes, agencies, and quick mechanics will check the coolant level during an oil change.
  • Follow the regular maintenance schedule provided by the manufacturer, including the times when your vehicle’s coolant must be rinsed out and replaced.
  • Periodically check coolant levels according to your vehicle’s manufacturer’s directions.
  • Inspect your vehicle for worn belts and hoses annually, or as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

If you notice that your coolant needs to be refilled regularly, you likely have a leak that needs to be fixed.

Why do cars overheat?

Overheating is usually due to your car not having enough coolant. Low levels in the coolant reservoir are usually caused by a worn water pump or a damaged or loose hose. It can be hard to spot but a trained mechanic should be able to see it.

So, by staying on top of the routine service, you will likely be able to avoid it along with a slew of other potential issues.

Car overheating

How can I benefit from the roadside breakdown service when my car overheats?

If you find yourself on the road and stranded with an overheating car, now is the time to take advantage of your road insurance service. You can usually find instructions on how to reach a service provider for road problems on proof of your insurance cards.

If you have Emergency Road Service on your insurance policy, you should call to file a claim. If you rent or borrow a car, you should still contact the ERS. You will need to provide your document information along with your vehicle’s condition details. A service provider must be sent to your location for assistance.

Also for auto policies, the emergency road service limit applies to the total cost of services. Therefore, you must be informed of any petty cash before sending assistance.

To learn more about Emergency Road Service, call your local and independent Boulder Insurance Adviser at 303-449-9595 to learn more.

This article is provided by Auto-Owners Insurance, one of our boldest insurance partners.



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