Your engine can overheat for a number of reasons. Some of the most common causes of this are mechanical failures such as broken fans or blown head gaskets. Problems with your car’s radiator and cooling systems, such as leaking coolant or a stuck thermostat can also result in your engine reaching a dangerously high temperature. Luckily, there are a number of warning signs that your engine is overheating. If you respond quickly, you will have the best chance of minimizing serious damage.
When the engine is running, you can expect the hood to emit
heat and feel warm to the touch. This is completely normal. If however, your
car’s hood is extremely hot, this could be cause for concern. You should be
able to comfortably place your hand on the hood for 10 seconds without burning
2.Temperature Gauge or Light
On your dashboard, you should see a warning light or gauge
indicating the temperature of your engine. If the light flashes on or the gauge
reads near maximum, it means there is excessive heat generating in your engine.
However, this warning light cannot always be trusted to alert you of an
overheating engine. It functions by measuring the temperature of the coolant, so
in the case of a huge coolant leak, there would be nothing for it to measure.
If your engine is making an audible ticking noise, it means
that your engine oil is failing to lubricate the moving parts sufficiently.
When engine oil is overheated, it loses its lubricating properties and behaves
more like water than oil. At high temperatures, if the mechanical parts of your
engine are clacking against each other audibly you can expect them to undergo
wear and tear at a much higher rate than usual.
4.Coolant Leaking on the Ground
If you notice a puddle of coolant under your car, it could
be a sign of a leak somewhere in your cooling system. It also could indicate
that your engine has overheated and boiled the coolant within the radiator,
causing the overflow tank to release excess liquid to relieve the high pressure
created. In either situation, your car’s cooling system no longer has the
correct amount of coolant flowing through the engine, so it will be prone to
There is a distinctive odor emitted when the engine heats up
enough to start burning oil. As the temperature increases, the rubber seals,
plastic valves, and bits of resin holding the whole engine together may begin
to melt, releasing fumes that you would not normally smell otherwise. Most
people describe this unusual odor as a ‘hot’ smell. It’s also possible that
leaking coolant containing ethylene glycol will fill your car with
sweet-smelling, but toxic fumes. Any unusual odors are a bad sign and should
not be ignored.
6.Steam Coming from the Hood
Steam billowing out from underneath your hood is a sure sign
that your engine is overheating. As soon as you notice, pull over and turn off
the engine. Coolant that has reached its boiling point will convert into steam
and build pressure within the cooling system. When it escapes from your car’s
radiator cap or coolant reservoir, you will see it coming out from the front
and sides of the hood.
The thermostat in your cooling system controls the valve
allowing the flow of coolant to the radiator, ensuring efficient engine
function. If this valve gets stuck, the trapped coolant in the engine block
will become superheated. When cold coolant comes into contact with the
superheated coolant, you will hear a loud thumping noise coming from the engine
area. Getting the thermostat replaced usually fixes this issue.
8.Reduced Engine Power
An overheated engine may not be able to deliver enough power
to keep your car moving at the rate you want it to move. If you sense the power
in your engine is lacking, pay close attention to odd smells or noises that can
corroborate engine overheating. Keep an eye on the dashboard temperature gauge
or light and pull over if you think the engine is struggling.
If you notice one or more of these signs, there is a high
chance that your engine is overheating. The wisest thing to do in this
situation is to safely pull over as quickly as possible and turn off your
engine. This will allow the engine to cool down naturally and prevent further
damage. If you are going to raise the hood to allow excess heat to escape,
remember to do so with caution, as escaping steam can easily burn you.
It is best not to touch anything under the hood until the
engine has fully cooled down. Attempting to check the coolant level will likely
result in a bad burn if the pressure has built up from excess heat. As you wait
for the engine to cool, call a trusted local mechanic for advice. With a
description of the symptoms, they should be able to advise you on whether to
bring the car in yourself or have roadside assistance pick it up.