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When your Car Engine Is Overheating

Whether you notice your dashboard’s temperature gauge climbing, or see smoke bellowing from underneath your hood, when an engine begins to overheat, it is critical to stop the vehicle as soon as possible. This means pulling over to the side of the road, shoulder of the interstate, into a parking lot, or neighborhood development. No matter where you are, you must immediately find a place to stop and park.

If you feel like you can make it to the nearest service center, the first thing to do is shut off your AC, open all the windows, and turn ON your heat. This sounds crazy in the summertime (or even the winter opening the windows), but turning on the heat and opening car windows relieves pressure from the engine and can buy you some time to get to an auto repair shop.

Once you are at a stop, whether on the side of the road or a service station, be sure to not open the hood until it stops steaming. This could take up to 30 minutes. If you are at a service station, a technician will handle everything, including this; but if you are by yourself on the road, just be sure to wait before you pop the hood.

Once the car cools down, you can pop the hood and open the radiator cap. Check to see that you have engine coolant and that it is the color it should be (whatever color it is when it’s new). If you notice reddening or odd coloring, then your coolant is dirty and needs replaced. If it is just low, try refilling it with your emergency stash of radiator fluid in the trunk. Everyone should always have radiator fluid and windshield wiper fluid on hand at all times for emergencies.

If you do not have coolant on-hand, simply use water instead. You don’t have either, it is best to contact a local roadside assistance service for help. Then have them transfer your vehicle to the nearest service station for inspections and service.