Overheated Engine: The Steps You Need to Take

If you are heading out on a summer road trip, you should be prepared for the possibility that your car engine will overheat. Below is a guide detailing what you need to do if your engine overheats.

Pull over to the side of the road

If you notice the temperature gauge on your dashboard hitting the red or notice steam rising from beneath the bonnet of your car, you should stop at the first safe spot. Once the car comes to a stop, switch off the engine and wait.

Let the engine cool off

Whatever you do, do not open the bonnet of the car until the engine has cooled off. You should wait until you can no longer see any steam escaping from beneath the bonnet before raising it. Exercise extreme caution when opening the bonnet and be prepared to step back to avoid any steam. Steam escaping from beneath the bonnet can cause burns to your hands, arms, and face. 

Check the radiator coolant levels

Once the engine has cooled down, you can pop the bonnet and take a look at the radiators coolant reservoir. The plastic reservoir is usually located towards the front of the car. If you are unsure of the location of the reservoir, you should check your owners manual. You should be able to see a maximum and minimum marker on the side of the plastic casing of the reservoir.

If the fluid level within the reservoir is between these two markers, and you have not noticed any steam rising from the bonnet of your car, it is possible the temperature gauge on your car is faulty.

Refill the radiator and reservoir 

If the radiator coolant levels are low, this is the likely cause of the engine overheating. A possible cause of low coolant levels is a leak within the radiator of your car or the connecting hoses. At this point you have two options, you can call for roadside assistance and have your vehicle towed to the nearest garage or you can re-fill the radiator and reservoir with water.

If you decide to refill the radiator and reservoir, you should be very careful when removing the reservoir cap, as any trapped steam could quickly escape as you unscrew it. 

Fill the reservoir with water until the level is between the maximum and minimum markers. The added water should keep the temperature of the engine low enough to allow you to drive to the next town. If you notice the temperature of your engine is rising again, you should pull over and refill the reservoir will more water.

If your engine overheats, you should have the car’s radiator and cooling system inspected by a qualified mechanic.