Overheating -- Your Car's Enemy
At one time, when vehicles had engines with cast-iron heads and engine blocks, an overheating episode wasn't so harmful. It wasn't a good thing, but it was something your engine could usually easily recover from with no permanent damage. Today's engines often use aluminum heads and blocks to cut weight, and even overheating the engine once can result in a warped or cracked head, a blown head gasket, blown intake manifold gasket or other serious problems.
Signs of Overheating
Obviously, a climbing temperature gauge is your first sign. Most vehicles at normal operating temperature will show the temp gauge at about 1/3 to 1/2 way. Not all vehicles feature a temp gauge, though -- many older cars still had an "idiot light" which might only light up after the damage is already done! Here are other signs to watch for:
-- Smell of coolant
-- Steam from under hood
-- Heat from heater vents even without the heater turned on.
If you notice your engine overheating, turn on the heater at full blast; since the heater uses hot coolant to provide heat for the interior, doing so can help draw excess heat away from the engine. More importantly, though, find a safe place to pull over and shut off the engine as soon as you can, before any permanent damage can occur.
Causes of Overheating
On a hot day, sitting in traffic or hauling a heavy load can be enough stress on an engine to cause overheating...but only if there's another problem in play. The cooling system is simple, consisting of a thermostat, water pump, radiator, cooling fan, hoses and heater core. These are all potential causes for overheating, and we'll touch on prevention as well:
-- Low coolant level. Remember that coolant is a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and distilled water, and antifreeze helps prevent boilovers as well as freezing. Unfortunately, that low coolant level means that coolant is disappearing somewhere, so you'll need to diagnose the leak and repair it.
-- Failing water pump
-- Clogged radiator. This is why cooling system maintenance is so important, to flush scale and corrosion from the system and keep coolant flowing.
-- Failed hose
-- Inoperative cooling fan, due to a faulty switch, electric motor or failed drive belt.
Keep up on your cooling system's maintenance and you shouldn't have anything to worry about. If you can't remember your last cooling system flush, the technicians at St Lucie Battery & Tire can easily check the condition of your coolant and perform maintenance if needed. Make an appointment with us and keep cool this summer!