Vehicles most often overheat during the summer, especially if you live in a hot climate. If it’s going to happen, it will typically occur when the vehicle is in stop-and-go traffic, or there are steep grades the vehicle must traverse. Although most newer model cars don’t have overheating issues, it can still happen.

The best way to avoid an overheated car and the expenses that go along with it is to prevent it from happening in the first place. This can typically be accomplished through regular maintenance. If you are planning on going on a long trip, you will also need to be sure you are prepared if your vehicle overheats.

Preventive measures for everyday car care

Replace coolant as recommended by manufacturer

Regardless of how healthy and clear your coolant looks, it will need to be replaced according to manufacturer recommendations. Typically, the recommendation is every two to five years.

Get routine maintenance

If you receive regular maintenance on your vehicle, the shop should also take care of the coolant. This is part of the overall checklist, so make sure to stick to your regular maintenance schedule to prevent overheating.

Preventive measures on a trip

Sometimes even after a thorough inspection of your vehicle, it can still have a problem or overheat. Defective devices, broken radiators, and random acts that damage an engine can cause overheating to occur. Overheating is typically caused by one of three things:

  • Thermostat failure – The thermostat works to keep the engine cool by moving heat away from the engine. A thermostat malfunction can cause the coolant to keep circulating and cause the engine temperature to keep rising.
  • Blocked airflow – Air is constantly forced through a radiator, which helps keep it cool. If that airflow is blocked, the engine can overheat.
  • Leaking water pump – Coolant in a vehicle can deteriorate, causing buildup. This buildup can then damage the seals and cause pumps to leak.

The above reasons for a vehicle overheating can be prevented with proper maintenance. When you plan on taking a long trip, have your thermostat and radiator properly inspected to prevent overheating and help yourself from becoming stranded on the side of a desolate road.

Always carry extra water and coolant

The best way to prevent a vehicle from overheating is to make sure it always has the proper amount of coolant in the engine. If you are going on a long trip during the summer, keep an extra container of coolant in your vehicle to top it off if necessary. Check your coolant fluid frequently to make sure it doesn’t run low.

Watch the temperature gauge

Apart from the fuel, many people don’t pay attention to the gauges on their dashboard. Pay attention to the vehicle’s temperature gauge, especially in summer months. If you make it a habit to check, you will know where the gauge pointer typically lies. As you’re driving, check the gauge consistently. If it begins to raise higher than normal, pull over, shut the car off, and open the hood.

Stop to let the engine cool

It’s important to catch the temperature before it rises to a dangerous level, which can damage the engine and leave you stranded. Once you have pulled over, killed the engine, and opened the hood, check underneath the car for possible leaks. Water dripping from the air conditioner is normal, but other than that, there should be no other fluids leaking.

Let the engine cool sufficiently

Allow at least 20 minutes before you resume driving to give the engine time to cool off. At this point, it is advisable to drive your vehicle to a mechanics shop to ensure there is nothing wrong with it. After a thorough inspection, the mechanic will then be able to tell you whether it will be safe to continue with your trip.

My vehicle already overheated, now what?

Sometimes you may not catch the signs that your vehicle is on its way to overheating. Other times, it happens so quickly that there is not enough time to prevent it.

When your warning lights come on for an overheated vehicle, it’s important that you stop the car immediately. Do not try to rush to the nearest mechanic; it will only damage your engine. Turn off your air conditioner, turn on your hazard lights, and safely exit the roadway, moving as far away from the road as possible. Once you are safely on the side of the road, turn off your engine and open your hood.

Do not try to do anything else with your vehicle. Just call a tow truck for help. At this point, there is nothing to be done on the roadside. The vehicle will need to be towed to a professional and fixed. One thing that you should definitely avoid is touching the radiator cap. Unscrewing this can cause an explosion of coolant all over you, your vehicle, and the road.

Choosing a towing company

When choosing a tow truck company, do not call the first company that comes up during your Google search. Do a quick overview of company reviews and make sure that the company you call can respond quickly to your location. It’s dangerous to be waiting on the side of the road, so it’s important that the company responds as quickly as possible.

As always, the best way to avoid your vehicle overheating is prevention. Regular maintenance will be your best bet, as a mechanic can ensure coolant levels are where they should be and let you know if parts are about to wear out. Just remember that if your car is close to overheating, pull over immediately. If your car has already overheated, pull over and call a tow truck. Never try to fix an overheated engine on your own!