What To Do When Your Car Overheats
Sssssss. Ssssssssss. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.
If you’ve ever had a car that overheated, you know what this sound means.
This past week, I was leaving campus when my car decided to betray me. I say betray because we had made a deal — it would stop breaking down at least until after I graduated. But apparently my car didn’t get the memo.
So long story short, it took me two hours and 2 gallons of antifreeze to travel the 24 miles home (going to work wasn’t even possible that day — I never would have made it). Through this ordeal there were a lot of lessons learned, mostly over the phone, as I asked my dad what to do.
Here’s what I learned from the experience:
Patience is Key
This is a very stressful situation, and if you aren’t mechanically inclined, well, you probably don’t know where your radiator is or what coolant (antifreeze) even is.
But the important thing is to not freak out and take a deep breath. Overwhelming yourself with stress won’t help you, and it only makes the whole experience worse.
Listen To Your Car
Whether it’s old or new, every car has a temperature gauge. It’s important to be alert of what is going on with your car.
When the temperature begins to rise, it will do so gradually, so you will have time to figure out what’s going on. Make a habit of checking the gauge on a regular basis while you are driving.
Steps To Deal With The Problem
- If you can pull over, do so. Allow the engine to cool down before checking coolant levels.
- Locate your radiator and VERY CAREFULLY remove the cap. Your engine is very hot and the radiator cap has a lot of pressure. If you open it too soon it can let out very hot steam or extremely hot coolant. The engine must be cool before you do this.
- Check the coolant levels. If it seems low, add coolant or water (only a temporary fix) until the coolant is at its highest level. Usually this can be the simple solution, but if the problem continues you might need to have it checked out by an expert.
- As you continue to drive, constantly check your temperature gauge. If the problem persists it might be an indication of a larger problem.
If the temperature is rising but it’s not at a dangerous level, you can also turn off your air conditioner, and in extreme cases, turn on the heater.
That might sound crazy, but it works. Having the heater on full-blast will take some of the heat off the engine. Just remember to roll down the windows. It might be an uncomfortable ride home, but it can help protect your engine from further damage.
If you are stuck in traffic, put the car in neutral or park and rev the engine a bit. This will allow the water and air to flow through the engine. If it’s stop-and-go, avoid constantly braking. Opt instead for a more of a creep-and-move-only-when-needed approach. Excessive breaking causes more friction on your engine.
It Happens To Everyone
Whether it happens to you once or 10 times, just remember everyone will go through this at least once. Cars aren’t perfect and sometimes they like to break down. Just remember to stay positive and relax. Not freaking out will make the whole experience a lot smoother so that it becomes just a bad moment that will soon be over.