What happens when my engine overheats?

No matter how much love and attention you give your vehicle there is always a possibility of something failing in your vehicle at the worst time. Generally, on that long-awaited vacation or special trip. So what happens when my engine overheats?

All the preventative maintenance in the world can not prevent every single failure that your vehicle could experience. It is important to know what happens when things fail. We are going to learn more about what happens when my engine overheats.

How do I know if my car is overheating?

The best way of knowing if something is happening to your vehicle is to always monitor what is normal. Take a listen when driving and listen for those normal sounds like tires, brake noise, etc. which can be considered a normal occurrence.

Monitor your gauges, vehicle manufacturers placed them in the vehicle to ensure that you know what is always going on with your vehicle. Monitor where the gauges normally sit when the vehicle is at operating temperature when driving down the road.

So, how do I know if my car is overheating? Monitoring the temperature gauge is the easiest way of monitoring what is happening in your cooling system. There is an electronic temperature gauge in your cooling system that monitors the cooling system.

If the coolant is getting too hot, this sensor will read higher than normal, indicating that there is something wrong with the cooling system of your vehicle.

What should I do if my engine is overheating?

First you will need to be able to identify what is going wrong with your vehicle. That is why it is important knowing where the gauges of your vehicle are normally located.

 If you have noticed that the temperature of your vehicle you need to make some immediate corrections. First, when it is safe to pull off the road, do so. Then shut the engine off before any other engine damage may occur.  

Once the engine is off the coolant will not continue to increase in temperature. Call a tow truck to pick up your vehicle because if your vehicle has been overheated it should not be driven.

There is a possibility that the engine has not been damaged from the overheating and if repaired correctly will not cause any further problems.

What causes my engine to overheat?

There are many causes that can cause your engine to overheat in your vehicle. The most likely cause of this is low engine coolant.

Low engine coolant is usually caused by a leak in the cooling system. When coolant is low it does not have enough liquid to be able to transport the heat that is generated by the cooling system to the radiator where it can be released.

This causes the temperature of the coolant as well as the engine to increase to the point where engine overheating can occur.

Faulty cooling system components can cause an engine to overheat as well. If a thermostat has failed to open or a water pump impeller has become damaged coolant cannot circulate through the cooling system. Again, this can cause heat to build up inside of the engine where it can result in overheating.

Low engine oil can also cause an engine to overheat. However, if an engine overheats due to low oil you should be concerned about other internal engine damage that may have occurred due to the lack of oil in the engine.

What damage can happen from my engine overheating?

Internal engine damage can occur if your engine overheats. There is a possibility that if it is caught quickly enough before it overheats to much no engine damage can occur.

If you did not notice the when your engine overheats it may be too late, that is a different story. First, significant engine damage can occur. If the engine overheats too much it can cause the head gaskets to fail. This is caused by components warping due to excessive heat.

This can cause the engine to leak coolant externally or internally depending on where the leak occurs in the head gasket. To repair this a technician needs to remove the cylinder heads from the vehicle, check the engine block and head for warpage. If the warpage is out of limits, they need to send the head to a machine shop where they are machined flat.

Cylinder Head Gasket
Cylinder Head Gasket being replaced

Then a new set of head gaskets and bolts are installed before installing all other removed components. As you can imagine this is a very large costly, time-consuming job.

How can I prevent my engine from overheating?

There are a few things that can be done to ensure that you are not stuck on the side of the road wondering what happens when my engine overheats. Or to ensure that your cooling system is functioning the way it was designed.

Proper coolant servicing is the most important part of preventative maintenance in your cooling system. Coolant breaks down over time and is not able to continue operating at peak efficiency and performing its job like it was designed.

Ensure that you flush the cooling system as per manufacturers specifications. This service will ensure all the aged coolant and any debris/sediment that has accumulated in your cooling system is removed.

Use distilled water if you are mixing coolant from concentrate. By using distilled water there are not hard water contaminates that can cause scale build up in your cooling system. Scale reduces the cooling systems ability to cool properly.

Replace your thermostat every 100,000km. You will not find this in any owner’s manual or shop guide, but it is good preventative maintenance.

By ensuring you replace the thermostat before it fails ensures that the thermostat can properly control the engine temperature as it was designed.

Hopefully you understand a little bit more about what happens when your engine overheats. It can be a scary situation when a problem occurs in our vehicles. But by understanding the systems and knowing what to do. Every driver can ensure that they limit the damage that can occur to their vehicle.

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