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What to Do if Your Engine Overheats

Published on: 15 October 2015

What to Do if Your Engine Overheats

When your engine overheats, it can cause serious, permanent damage to your vehicle, so it is best to do everything in your power to stop this from happening in the first place. However, sometimes an overheating engine is unavoidable, especially if your vehicle is an older model. With this in mind, it is important for you to know exactly what to do if you ever find yourself in a situation such as this.

Let us first look at the four main reasons why your engine might over-heat:

  1. You need to top up your anti-freeze. Anti-freeze is responsible for lowering the freezing point of the water within your radiator, thus helping to keep the vehicle cool. If you are running low on anti-freeze, it is likely that the car will start to over-heat. Watch “How to top up your antifreeze”.
  2. You have used the wrong anti-freeze. Each vehicle requires a different type of anti-freeze, as well as a different concentration. Because of this, it is essential that you read your owner’s manual before topping it up.
  3. Your cooling system has a leak. If your radiator, hose or water pump is leaking, over-heating is inevitable.
  4. Your thermostat is faulty. If your car’s thermostat is not reading temperatures correctly, it will prevent your cooling system from working.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you notice that your engine is starting to overheat:

  • Turn off your air conditioner and wind down all of your windows to limit the load on the engine and to encourage natural air flow.
  • Turn on the heater. While this may seem counter-productive, it works. You will be transferring the heat from the engine into the passenger portion of the car, thus helping to take some stress off of the engine.
  • If you’re stuck in traffic, try to use your brakes as little as possible, only pulling forward when there is a large gap between you and the car in front of you, instead of inching forward and riding the clutch and brake. Alternatively, crawl along as slowly as possible, for as long as possible, without braking.

If the engine is already in dire straits, here are some survival tips:

  • Pull over on the side of the road, turn off the ignition and open the hood of the engine using the lever inside the car – do not try to open it manually using your hands! You could risk a nasty burn.
  • Leave the hood open for as long as it takes for the engine to cool down. Once cool, the first thing that you should do is check your coolant tank and top it up with anti-freeze as necessary. Watch “How to top up your antifreeze” for a step by step guide to topping up your anti-freeze.
  • If you notice that the tank is completely empty, the chances are high that you might have a leak. If this is the case, carefully remove the radiator cap with the help of an old cloth or rag, tilting it away from you as you do so. Refill it with water - or anti-freeze if you have it on hand - and drive to your nearest mechanic for assistance.

Usually, it is easy to stop your car from over-heating with regular and consistent car maintenance.  This car maintenance will help to keep your car running at optimum levels - but what happens if you're in an accident? Ultimately, you need to be prepared for anything that might happen when driving on SA roads, which is why car insurance is so essential. For a personalised quote and reliable cover, contact MiWay today.