Why Is My Car Overheating?

One of the most terrifying experiences a car owner can experience is the moment when their car begins to overheat. It can be a dramatic affair, replete with scary sights and sounds alike. Even more terrifying are the images of a ghastly repair bill on the horizon.

With this in mind, it’s important to learn about engine overheating and how to recognize the signs and symptoms of various issues that can lead to this unfortunate event. Let’s take a look.

The Basics

Check Engine Light On

Engines not only contain a series of tiny explosions on a regular basis, but they also consist of countless moving pieces working in harmony. As such, they generate an enormous amount of heat that has to be displaced. Most engines operate within a range of 195 degrees to 220 degrees. A temperature gauge located on your dash will give you a rough idea of your engine temperature on a scale of high to low. Understanding what ‘normal’ is for your car is important, so make sure to look at this gauge occasionally to get a feel for what your vehicle normally runs at. If it seems to be running higher than normal, it may be time to intervene.

Engine Cooling

Most engines today are liquid-cooled, which means they have a radiator of water that absorbs heat and then dissipates it. After a water pump circulates coolant through the engine, the heated liquid is run through channels with air circulating over them. This air is kept moving by a fan that constantly blows over the radiator. If any of these components fail, the engine will begin to overheat.

Coolant Leak

One of the more common issues that can cause overheating is when some component of the cooling system has developed a leak. When this happens, air is allowed to enter the system and foul the coolant circulation. This situation will eventually lead to overheating if it is not repaired.

The good news is that identifying a leak is relatively simple. Place cardboard or paper under your vehicle overnight and check to see if spots of coolant are present in the morning. If they are, you will then need to identify the source of the leak. The cost of this type of repair depends greatly on the source as the damaged component will need to be replaced. 

Contaminated Coolant

The ability of coolant to absorb heat and dissipate it rests on a carefully formulated mix. If this mix becomes altered, usually through the gradual build-up of sediment and other detritus, the coolant will perform inadequately. A certified mechanic is capable of flushing your coolant system to remove residue and ensure that the circulating coolant is high quality. This should be part of a regular maintenance schedule every 40,000 to 50,000 miles, but can also be an intervention measure if you are experiencing overheating issues.

Radiator Damage

As described above, the radiator works through a variety of parts collaborating. A radiator failure is generally attributed directly to one of these parts malfunctioning. For instance, the entire system is regulated by a thermostat that opens and closes to allow for coolant flow. If this thermostat becomes jammed, it can cause the radiator to not function at all. Likewise, if the fan responsible for circulating air ceases to function, heat will not be removed from the system properly. If your vehicle is overheating primarily while stopped or in slow-moving traffic, it is likely an issue with the fan.

All in all, the system responsible for keeping your engine cool and healthy is complex and can be difficult to diagnose alone. If you are experiencing any of these problems, we invite you to contact our service personnel at 941-924-6199. We are the Car Care Connection and our friendly and knowledgeable staff are eager to help you get back on the road.

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