What To Do When Your Engine Overheats

July 20th, 2021 by

Your car’s cooling system works to bring the engine up to the right temperature during cold months, and it works to keep the engine cool and operating efficiently during hot summer months. If your car’s cooling system is failing due to a radiator leak or obstruction, a faulty thermostat or a malfunctioning water pump, it can cause major engine damage.

What to do if Your Engine Overheats

If you’re wondering, is it safe to drive a car that overheats? The answer is absolutely not. When a car’s temperature gauge constantly reads ‘hot’, you can expect a cracked engine block, a warped cylinder head or deformed pistons. Any one of these will require an extensive engine overhaul or a complete engine replacement.

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If you’re on the road and your temperature gauge spikes into the red zone or if you see steam or hear hissing noises coming from the radiator, the first thing you should do is pull over onto the side of the road. It may help to turn off the air conditioning system and turn on the heater to help pull heat off the engine.

Avoid injury by not opening the car’s hood, and definitely do not attempt to remove the radiator cap while a car is steaming. There will be pressurized steam in the radiator that can forcibly eject and cause serious burn injuries.  Wait until the car cools down before attempting to add coolant to the hot radiator.

Once the engine has completely cooled down, and you’ve replaced the lost fluids, the car’s temperature gauge will go down, and you should be able to drive the car home. Otherwise, it may need to be towed to a local mechanic.

Tips to prevent your car from overheating

At Gloucester Toyota, many customers ask our service technicians, “how can I stop my engine from overheating?” You will find the following tips helpful, but if your auto is overheating then do not delay and have the car diagnosed and repaired immediately.

Otherwise, it is only a matter of time before you are left stranded on the road and facing auto repairs that can cost you thousands of dollars.

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Top-off the Coolant Regularly

Your car’s coolant should be changed about every 30,000 miles. But, if there is a cooling system leak, then you must top-off the coolant more often to prevent the system from going too low to efficiently cool off the engine or running completely dry.

Take Breaks During Long Trips

It would be unfortunate to have a cooling system problem while on a road trip. First, keep an eye on your temperature gauge. Before the needle reaches maximum temperature and your car begins to smoke, safely pull over and allow the engine to cool before continuing. Doing this often enough may prevent you from being stranded by the side of the road.

Have your Cooling System Inspected

Sometimes a radiator and the hoses will clog with debris. This is especially true for older cars, where corroded metal inside the radiator and pipes will dislodge and clog the cooling system. Only a cooling system inspection by a professional mechanic can determine the true reason why your car is overheating.

Know When to have a Cooling System Flush

Dirt, leaves, oil, fluid sediment, minerals from hard water and metal debris will all contribute to a cooling system failure. You can stop your car from overheating by keeping your cooling system clean. It is suggested to have your cooling system flushed every 100,000 miles for newer cars, or every 5 years for older cars.


  • change radiator coolant about every 30,000 miles
  • completely flush radiator every 5 years
  • take breaks often if your car is overheating
  • never remove the radiator cap from a hot engine

Gloucester Toyota has been servicing Virginia automobiles for years. We’ve built our reputation on great customer service and quality repairs. The best way to stop your engine from overheating is to make an appointment with our experienced service department for a cooling system inspection, coolant flush or repairs.

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