How to Drive an Overheating Engine

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Only drive when the engine temperature is low.

Avoid driving with an overheating engine. If you have to drive an overheated engine, only drive it after the engine cools down.

If the overheating problem is not recurrent, the problem might have been caused by factors such as driving during a hot day, leaving the air-conditioning on, or being stuck in traffic congestion.

As a precaution, you should always keep your eye on the temperature gauge to avoid other major problems.

Most car manufacturers calibrate the temperature gauge to sense heating way before a major problem occurs, thereby giving you enough time to fix the problem.

This is not to say that you should ignore the temperature gauge.

Keep the Air Conditioning Off

To reduce the strain on your engine if you have already experienced overheating trouble, turn off the air conditioning. The AC uses the engine’s power to cool off or warm the car.

Instead of the air conditioner, open the windows.

Turn your heat up and fans to the highest level

This may sound counter-intuitive, but your heat fans suck the engine heat in order to warm your car interior. The more engine heat you help to escape from the engine system the better.

Therefore, turning your heat and fans to the highest settings will get the hot air out of the engine and cool the car.

To avoid discomfort in the cabin, turn the vents towards the car’s windows.

Alternatively, you can set the car’s heat to the defrost mode to prevent the heat waves blowing directly on your face.

Shift the gear to neutral and rev the engine

The easiest and quickest way to circulate air in the engine is to get your car into a neutral gear and rev up to 2,000 rpm.

This will allow cold air and coolant to get to the engine thereby helping you to remove excess heat from the engine.

If you are stuck in traffic, this can be an appropriate method to keep the engine going even if the car is not moving.

Use water as coolant substitute

If you’re out of coolant, you may still add water to help your engine stay cool.

Water is not recommended for long drives, but it will still help the engine to stay cool between coolant top-ups.

If you choose to use water, add warm water into the radiator after the engine has completely cooled.

Cold water can cause cracks in the engine block due to the abrupt change of temperature from extremely hot to extremely cold.

Drive for shorter stretches

To maintain the optimal temperature of an engine when it has overheating problems, drive for shorter stretches, turn off the car and then repeat the process to keep moving.

Do not forget to keep checking the temperature gauge so that you can notice when you should stop driving and let the engine cool off further.

Every time the engine gets overheated, pull over and give it at least 10 to 20 minutes to cool down.

Although this is not a good practice for an overheating engine, it is better than driving with an overheated engine which may cause a total meltdown.

Chronic overheating requires a mechanic

If your car regularly overheats, you will need to visit a mechanic.

Sometimes the leaks that cause the overheating cannot be sealed by you as the car owner.

Even though the tips in this article can help you deal with overheating in the short run, you will still need to have the causes of overheating fixed by a qualified mechanic in order to avoid total catastrophe.

How to Avoid Engine Overheating

Drive Slow and Steady

Before you start driving, always choose a route that doesn’t have a lot of stops and traffic lights.

When driving, ensure that you drive at a slow and steady pace to avoid forcing the transmission system to overwork.

Stopping and starting a car puts a lot of stress on the engine which causes overheating, especially in older cars.

Always anticipate the action of the driver ahead of you to avoid hard braking so that you can ease off the acceleration pedal until your car comes to a gentle stop.

A good driver always checks the temperature gauge, and as soon as it turns red, he stops to check what might be causing overheating in the engine.

Substitute the AC for the Windows

The air conditioning unit utilises engine power to create the cold air in the car thereby putting a strain on the engine.

Open your car windows to create a cold air instead of using the air conditioning to ease  load on the car’s engine.

If you are late for a regular car inspection or you have unresolved air conditioning issues, or you are running low on coolant, or you have a leak in your radiator try not to use the air conditioning system.

Maintain regular oil changes and fan inspections

Credit: Robert Couse-Baker

If your car is running on old oil and this problem is compounded by running on low coolant and other issues, you will start experiencing engine overheating.

Every time you have an oil change, remind the mechanics to check your fans as well so that they can fix the issue well before it starts becoming a problem.

Use a smart technology such as GOFAR to help you to find your car engine’s sweet spot and minimize overheating.

The GOFAR app and device can;

  • Track car mileage for tax deductions
  • Alert you when the car has a fault
  • Explain the car faults in plain English

Refill your coolant before summer begins

During summer the air is usually hotter and so this means that you will need to check that your coolant reservoir is operating at the optimal level.

Check the coolant tank to see the level at which your coolant should always be and then mix equal parts of water and coolant and fill up to the recommended level.

If you live in a hot area, this should be a regular occurrence. When checking the level of the coolant, take a few minutes to check if there are any leaks.

The coolant is usually green in colour and smells sweet. Check around the engine, under the car, and around the hoses to see if there are any leaks.

Always have an emergency kit

The last thing you want is to be stranded in the middle of nowhere with an overheated engine.

To be well prepared, you need to have a kid that will help you to solve your overheating problems even when there are no mechanics around.

Among the tools that you should have in your emergency kit include;

  • Extra coolant
  • Gallon of water
  • Tool-kit
  • Flashlight
  • Non-perishable food
  • Blanket
  • Screwdrivers
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