What to do if your car overheats

Consumer Reports News: June 09, 2011 02:53 PM

It’s a pre-summer scorcher this week in states from Texas to New England with temperatures hitting the triple digits in some areas, and that means more drivers will be cranking up their vehicle’s air conditioning to stay cool. Find out what to do when your car can’t handle the heat.

Air conditioning can make driving in hot weather comfortable, therefore keeping you alert and safe. But sometimes the additional load on the cooling system can increase the chance of the engine overheating. Plus, there could be other problems that develop, like low coolant level or a leak, that may have you feeling like boiling over.

If you see the temperature gauge rising, a temperature warning light flashing, or steam billowing out from under the hood, then your car is overheating. The first thing to do is stay calm and follow these tips to ensure your safety and quick repair for your vehicle.

  • Turn off your A/C.
  • Turn on the heater full blast to drain heat from the engine.
  • Pull over and shut off your car to prevent any further damage to the engine. Park in the shade, if available.
  • Unless you see steam coming out from under the hood, raise it so that the engine cools off faster.
  • Wait at least a half-hour before trying to add coolant and check to see if the coolant level is lower than normal.
  • If you need to add water or coolant, see if any leaks on the ground as you pour it.
  • Check for any wetness on the carpet to see if there is an interior leak.
  • Call for roadside assistance.

For more on car repair, see our guide to car maintenance.

Liza Barth

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