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Q: What should I do if my engine overheats?

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What should I do if my engine overheats?

A: The coolant in the radiator should keep you...

The coolant in the radiator should keep your engine within the ideal operating temperature range. However, if the coolant is low, you have a leak in the system, or there are adverse conditions, it may be possible for the engine to overheat. If you notice the temperature gauge nosing into the red zone, here’s what you need to do:

  1. As soon as possible, find somewhere safe to pull over.

  2. Turn off the air conditioner if it’s on.

  3. With the engine running, check for steam coming from under the hood. If you notice any, immediately turn off the engine. If you don’t, leave the engine running.

  4. If there is steam, let the engine cool and the steam stop. Start the engine then, open the hood. If there is no steam, open the hood now.

  5. With the hood open, check the radiator fans for operation. If they’re working, let the temperature start to fall before turning off the engine. If they are not working, turn the engine off immediately and have your car towed.

  6. If the fans are working and the temperature begins to fall, turn the engine off and let it cool.

  7. Once the engine has cooled down, check the level of coolant in the reservoir. If it’s low, it should be topped off (only when the engine is cool). If it is empty, then the radiator needs to be checked as well (only when the engine is cool).

  8. If the radiator is low, top it off, and then add coolant to the reservoir as well.

  9. Crank the engine and check the coolant hoses, radiator and reservoir for leaks.

  10. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge. If it starts to move into the danger zone, turn the engine off and have the car towed. If it stays in the normal operating range, you can drive the car.


NEVER open the radiator cap or reservoir cap if the engine is hot. You can be severely burned by hot coolant.

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