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8 Common Causes of Cars Overheating

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Even though the hot days of summer are over and the cooler temps of Autumn are arriving, that doesn’t mean that your car cannot overheat. Nothing is more frustrating – and scary – than seeing the needle in your temperature gauge slowly creeping up, followed by the glaring red glow of your temperature warning, while steam begins to billow from under the hood. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of cars overheating.

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image via Flickr

8 of the Most Common Causes of Cars Overheating

Any indication of overheating is a serious matter, so the best course of action is to safely pull off of the road and shut down the engine to prevent further damage. Do not continue to drive as this will cause even more damage. Unfortunately, in some cases, just letting the engine cool off and topping off the radiator may not fix what’s wrong. Here is a list of some of the most common causes of cars overheating:

  1. Extremely low coolant levels due to neglect or a leak in the radiator or radiator hoses is a common cause of cars overheating. Engine coolant works by circulating inside the engine block to cool the parts down. Over time, the coolant loses its ability to prevent corrosion allowing rust to form and ultimately causing damage. A leak could be inside the block, or coming from the water pump or even the heater hoses. Sometimes you will be able to see the leaking antifreeze pooling beneath your car when you’ve been parked. Additionally, antifreeze has a candy-like odor. If you notice a syrupy, sweet smell, it’s indicative of a leak. 
  2. Another common cause of cars overheating is due to the thermostat that allows coolant to circulate getting stuck in the closed position.  Or a clog may also have developed, perhaps from debris in the cooling system.
  3. The engine cooling fan has stopped working or the radiator’s cooling fins are so clogged with debris that the airflow that reduces the coolant temperature is restricted.
  4. Another common cause is that the radiator cap has gone bad and is no longer able to maintain enough pressure in the cooling system. As a result, the coolant to boils over.
  5. The head gasket is cracked or needs to be replaced. This is what seals the gap between the cylinder head and the engine block. Once this fails, it allows coolant to leak inside the combustion chambers. One obvious tell-tale sign of this is white steam coming out of your exhaust. 
  6. The water pump has stopped working.
  7. The belt that the water pump is broken or is slipping and not pumping enough coolant.
  8. You are doing something that causes too much strain on the car’s engine and/or transmission. Did you know that by towing something which exceeds your vehicle’s towing capacity you can cause it to overheat?

How to Help Prevent Overheating

One Norco, California Dodge dealership agrees that regular maintenance is one of the best ways to prevent any of the above causes from happening and resulting in an overheating disaster. Checking your engine coolant level in the overflow tank on a regular basis is something that you can easily do yourself to save some money. If you notice that you are having to top off the coolant regularly, it’s an indication of a small leak. Take care of it as soon as you notice, and you can help prevent more costly repairs in the future. Additionally, having the entire system inspected by a mechanic at least once a year is an even better way to prevent costly cooling system disasters. 

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