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Summer Car Smarts: What to do if your Vehicle Overheats

Regardless of your vehicle’s year, make, or model, scorching summer days can cause any car to overheat. Iowa summers, especially, require us to pay close attention to the temperature gauge, particularly when climbing steep hills or stuck in stop-and-go traffic. Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure a temporary jump in temperature doesn’t lead to long-lasting trouble. To help you know what to do if your car overheats, here are 6 easy LOF-Xpress™ approved steps for WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR VEHICLE OVERHEATS.

  1. First, know the warning signs. Keep an eye on your dashboard while driving on hot days to recognize if your car is overheating. If you notice that the temperature indicator is rising or a malfunction indicator light comes on, your car may be overheating, and you should take action immediately. Other signs of an overheating car include steam (which may look like smoke) pouring out of the hood and an unusual smell coming from the engine.
  2. Turn off your air conditioner. This may be counterintuitive (shouldn’t you turn the AC up when the car is hot? Nope!), but it will reduce the engine’s load and help it cool off quicker. Open the windows, as well. If the car continues to overheat, turn on the heater to transfer heat from the engine to the passenger compartment. This may result in being uncomfortable for you, but it will certainly help your engine cool down.
  3. Pull over to a safe location, turn off your vehicle’s engine, and open the hood when the car has cooled. Wait on the side of the road until the engine cools off. This could take 30 minutes or more.
  4. Always carry an extra bottle of coolant (also called antifreeze) in your car, as well as a jug of water. Engines typically overheat because the coolant is low, so topping it off will often solve the problem. Water will also temporarily do the trick. Check the coolant tank to see if it’s empty, and look under the car to see if it’s leaking.

WARNING: Wait until the engine is cool before adding coolant or water. If you remove the radiator cap while the engine is still hot, you run a very high risk of being burned.

  1. Now that you know what to do when your car overheats, you need to figure out why your car has overheated. The problem could be rooted in a low coolant level, a leak in the cooling system, or a malfunctioning thermostat. This is where we come in! Stop by one of our two locations in Ames or Ankeny and let our experienced technicians take a look!
  2. Finally, to prevent your car from overheating in the months and years to come, we recommend proper vehicle maintenance and schedule regularly scheduled check-ups with one of our trained technicians. Completing minor maintenance now can greatly reduce your risk of surprise failures down the road.