Engine Overheating Causes and Actions | Goodyear Auto Service (2023)

Who wouldn’t be frustrated and scared to see smoke coming from under the hood as they’re out on a summer drive? Overheating engines can and do happen, and the damage can be permanent if the right precautions and actions aren’t taken. Engines that run too hot can cause damage and ruin your journey.

Goodyear Auto Service is here to help you understand why engines overheat, plus, possible actions to take if your vehicle begins overheating while you’re driving.

The Bottom Line

If you are in a vehicle that is overheating, do not try to drive farther. Pull over, stop driving and turn the vehicle off. Actions can be taken to assess any issues, though the best course of action is to have the vehicle towed to your nearest Goodyear Auto Service.

What does a cooling system do?

Before getting into reasons why an engine can begin to overheat, it’s good to understand what an engine’s cooling system does. The overall cooling system keeps a standard operating temperature for the engine by circulating coolant, or antifreeze, through the engine to the radiator, thus pulling heat away from the engine.

What happens when an engine overheats?

Today’s engines are typically built to be durable, but when heat generated by a vehicle’s motor is well above the normal operating temperature, the devices made to cool this heat distribution may begin to fail, potentially causing permanent damage to not only the engine, but also the gaskets, hoses and seals that are designed to keep the engine running.

There are a variety of reasons that a vehicle can overheat, such as cooling system leaks, blocked hoses from corrosion and mineral deposits, radiator issues or broken water pumps. Regular inspections may help avoid overheating issues down the road.

Engine Overheating Causes and Actions | Goodyear Auto Service (1)

What to do if your vehicle begins overheating.

If you’re on the road and the dashboard warning lights come on, you notice a strange smell coming from the engine, see smoke or feel your car isn’t driving as it should, follow these precautions for your vehicle.

  1. 1.Pull over and assess the situation

As soon as you notice an issue with your vehicle, the next course of action is to pull off the road to a safe and clear area and turn off the vehicle. If the vehicle is overheating, continuing to drive with a potentially damaged engine may cause permanent damage.

  1. 2.Keep moving only if necessary

If there is a situation where you are not able to come to a complete stop in a safe and clear area, keeping the vehicle slowly moving may still allow a constant airflow around the motor to help aid in natural cooling. Leaving your car at rest with the engine running may worsen the problem, which can quickly produce additional and unwanted heat.

  1. 3.Turnon the heat

Yes, that’s right. When the vehicle is still in motion, turning off the air conditioning and increasing the heat to high may help to pull additional heat away from the engine.

  1. 4. Openallthe windows

The goal is to release as much heat as possible. Rolling down and opening as many windows as possible is another way to allow heat to flow out of the vehicle.

(Video) How Car Cooling System Works

Engine Overheating Causes and Actions | Goodyear Auto Service (2)

  1. 5. Call for assistance

The number-one option at this point is to call for service or roadside assistance.

Do not try to open the hood of your caruntil the vehicle has cooled down

Once the vehicle is at a complete stop and turned off, do not lift the hood. Depending on how long the vehicle has been running, the coolant in the vehicle could be increasing in temperature to an extremely hot level, and essentially pressurizing in the cooling system itself. Only once the vehicle has completely cooled down will it be suitable to attempt to open the hood. The vehicle should be allowed to cool down naturally before opening the hood.

To confirm that the vehicle has appropriately cooled down, monitor the temperature gauge in your vehicle as it moves from HOT to COOL, which may take upwards of 30 minutes. Depending upon the vehicle you drive, the temperature gauge may only be functional when the ignition is in the “accessory” or “on” position. During this step, it’s important to not start the engine, and in this situation, only activate the ignition to the “on” position to read the temperature gauge.

Common reasons for overheating engines

There are a variety of reasons why a vehicle’s engine can overheat. Certain examples may be quicker fixes, such as refilling your antifreeze, but other issues may be more permanent if not properly taken care of by a professional.

Below are common factors that can cause a car to overheat:

(Video) 5 Life-Saving Actions to Take When Your Car is Overheating

  1. 1.Too little or no coolant

Driving without proper levels of coolant/antifreeze may cause a coolant system failure. If coolant levels are lower than the manufacturer’s recommendation, refill or top off the levels with new coolant/antifreeze. When adding new coolant to an empty reservoir use only a 50/50 mix of antifreeze/coolant and water. If you are unsure where the coolant reservoir tank is located, or the proper method for refilling it, refer to your vehicle owner’s manual.

Engine Overheating Causes and Actions | Goodyear Auto Service (3)

  1. 2.Cooling systemleaks

An empty coolant reservoir tank could be caused by a potential leak. Leaks in the coolant can often be identified by spots or puddles on the ground.

Be aware that coolant will have a sweet smell and may be green, blue or orange in color depending on the type of coolant being used.

  1. 3.A broken waterpump

The water pump’s job is to circulate the coolant throughout the engine. If the coolant is dirty or has too much buildup, it can stop the coolant from moving through the pump, which can lead to an overheating situation.

  1. 4. Radiator issues

Radiators and their fans help to reduce heat from the engine by decreasing coolant temperatures. Issues with the fans may reduce the capability of the radiator to remove heat, which will cause unnatural temperature increases.

  1. 5. Oil too low

Outside of lubricating the engine’s parts, a vehicle’s motor oil helps control overall temperatures. Low oil levels may increase engine temperatures.

  1. 6. Thermostat failure

Like the thermostat in a home, the thermostat in a vehicle is needed to regulate engine temperatures. A thermostat failure may cause harm to the engine by not allowing the coolant to flow as intended by the vehicle manufacturer.

(Video) Camaro Overheating (Chevy Camaro Running Hot)

  1. 7. Issues with the belts and hoses

If coolant hoses are leaking, blocked or ruptured, or if the belts are worn out or frayed, their purpose of maintaining air and coolant flow to and from the engine and related systems will be limited and may lead to unexpected engine damage. For more information, view our serviceson

  1. 8.Heater core is plugged up

Coolant flow may be compromised if the engine’s heat exchanger unit is clogged or blocked, which can cause overheating in a vehicle’s engine.

Tips to prevent a car from overheating

Remembering a few quick tips as you drive can help to alleviate permanent engine damage down the road.

  • Check your vehicle’s coolant levels on a consistent basis
  • Store an extra bottle of new antifreeze and a gallon of water in your trunk
  • Monitor your car’s thermostat as you’re driving
  • Do not overuse the car’s air conditioning on extremely hot days
  • Help cool the engine by running the heat at the first sign of overheating
  • Refer to the vehicle owner’s manual to stay up-to-date on coolant service flushes

An overheating engine is a sign of a serious issue. Regular maintenance checks will help identify problems early on, before causing permanent damage to your vehicle. If you have questions regarding your coolant and cooling systems, we’re available to help you at your local Goodyear Auto Service location.

If you need assistance immediately, contact our towing service. Fees may apply.See detailshere.


What are 3 simple things to check if your car is overheating? ›

List of Things to Check if Your Engine is Overheating
  • Coolant Levels. Check the levels of your coolant in your reservoir and engine. ...
  • Leaking Hoses or Reservoir. Finding a puddle of coolant or water isn't a good thing, as this indicates a leak. ...
  • Stuck or Malfunctioning Thermostat. ...
  • Low Oil.
Feb 4, 2020

What are the 8 possible causes of engine overheating? ›

Common Causes of a Car Overheating
  • Stuck Thermostat. ...
  • Failed Water Pump. ...
  • Malfunctioning Radiator Fan. ...
  • Faulty Temperature Sensor. ...
  • Low Coolant Level. ...
  • Clogging in the Cooling System. ...
  • Airflow Restriction. ...
  • Low Oil Level.
Oct 7, 2021

What are 3 things that can cause an overheated engine? ›

Common reasons for overheating engines
  • Too little or no coolant. Driving without proper levels of coolant/antifreeze may cause a coolant system failure. ...
  • Cooling system leaks. ...
  • A broken water pump. ...
  • Radiator issues. ...
  • Oil too low. ...
  • Thermostat failure. ...
  • Issues with the belts and hoses. ...
  • Heater core is plugged up.

How do you troubleshoot an overheating problem? ›

How to stop your computer from overheating
  1. Check that the fans are working. ...
  2. Improve airflow for desktop PCs. ...
  3. Improve airflow for your laptop. ...
  4. Avoid using programs that use a lot of CPU power. ...
  5. Close unnecessary browser tabs and programs. ...
  6. Clean and dust your computer. ...
  7. Reapply thermal paste.
Mar 4, 2022

Is it OK to drive if engine overheats? ›

If your car is overheating, you should definitely not drive it. This could be due to several factors, including low coolant levels or a faulty cooling system. Driving an overheated car puts additional strain on the engine, leading to further damage and costly repairs down the road.

What is the number one cause of an overheating issue? ›

Leaks are the #1 reason a vehicle begins to overheat. Leaks in hoses, the radiator, water pump, thermostat housing, heater core, head gasket, freeze plugs and a few other things can all lead to problems with the vehicle's cooling system.

What is the most common cause of engine overheating? ›

Why Do Engines Overheat? Engines can overheat for many reasons. In general, it's because something's wrong within the cooling system and heat isn't able to escape the engine compartment. The source of the issue could include a cooling system leak, faulty radiator fan, broken water pump, or clogged coolant hose.

What is the most common cause of a vehicle overheating? ›

There's a leak in the cooling system – In most cases, a leak in the cooling system is what causes your car to overheat. The radiator, hoses, water pump, head gasket, and thermostat housing are all components of the cooling system, and all can be susceptible to leaks.

Will an oil change fix overheating? ›

Yes, an oil change can help prevent your car from overheating. However, an overdue oil change is not the only possible cause for an overheating engine.

Can low transmission fluid cause overheating? ›

Low fluid levels or old transmission fluid causes friction between the parts and causes overheating. Fluid problems are the most common reason for transmissions overheating.

Can lack of oil make your car overheat? ›

It's usually noticed if your coolant is low, but low oil can also cause the engine to overheat. This can occur even if your coolant level is fine. If there is too little oil in the engine, it will continue to heat up because it has no opportunity to cool.

Why is my car overheating but not losing coolant? ›

Your coolant could be overheating because you have an airflow issue, but it could also be overheating if the coolant is old and need replacing. Additionally, coolant can overheat if it is not being effectively pushed through the cooling system.

What gets damaged when engine overheats? ›

That said, a severely overheating engine can cause the cylinder walls or the pistons themselves to warp, bend and deform. This will cause the perfect seal between the piston and the rest of the engine to lose integrity. Oil could be forced past the piston rings and into the engine, where it will burn the oil.

What sensor can cause a car to overheat? ›

If you notice that your engine overheats, the coolant temperature sensor could be the problem. At times, the coolant temperature switch may fail such that it starts transmitting hot signals permanently. This causes the computer to erroneously counterbalance the signal, thereby causing the engine to misfire or overheat.

How long should I let my car sit if it overheats? ›

Wait until the engine completely cools — at least 30 minutes. You might be able to speed up the cooling process if you can pop the hood with a latch located inside the car cabin. But, do not touch or attempt to open the hood until the engine is completely cool. Check the coolant/antifreeze reservoir.

What is the fastest way to cool down a car engine? ›

Put your car in neutral or park and then rev the engine. This makes the fan and the water pump work faster, which pulls more air and more water through your car's radiator. This increased circulation cools down the engine. Pull over and open the hood.

How long can an engine overheat before damage? ›

How long can a car overheat before damage occurs? It only takes 30-60 seconds of overheating for permanent damage to infiltrate a vehicle. As soon as you notice signs of overheating, you need to act. Failure to do so might result in troubles like coolant leaks, damaged radiator caps, and a faulty cooling fan.

Will dirty air filter make engine run hot? ›

If your vehicle's engine air filter is clogged or otherwise dirty, less oxygen will enter the combustion chamber. As all the fuel burns in the combustion chamber, it can raise engine temperatures, potentially causing your vehicle's engine to overheat.

What are the stages of overheating? ›

Heat emergencies have three stages: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. All three stages of heat emergency are serious.

Can a clogged car air filter cause overheating? ›

In a vehicle, a dirty engine air filter can lead to engine overheating, poor gas mileage, and other issues that may severely damage the engine. Your indoor cooling system relies on a clean air filter for efficient operation.

Is it expensive to fix an overheating engine? ›

The average cost to fix an overheating car varies, typically between $100 to $1,500. Since several components help cool your engine and car, you'll need to find out what causes the problem to get a better idea of the cost.

What are two signs of overheating? ›

  • High body temperature (103°F or higher)
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin.
  • Fast, strong pulse.
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea.
  • Confusion.
  • Losing consciousness (passing out)

Can Jiffy Lube fix overheating? ›

DON'T wait for it to get better on its own. An overheating engine won't repair itself, and you should bring your car in to Jiffy Lube as soon as you can.

Can Jiffy Lube help overheating? ›

Jiffy Lube provides engine services including an inspection of coolant levels with every oil change and we provide cooling system service as well allowing you to keep a cool head no matter how hot it gets on the open road.

Do I need a new engine if it overheats? ›

Constant Overheating

If your car, truck, or utility vehicle is overheating all the time, it's possible that you need to replace the engine. This is definitely the case if you replace the cooling system yet the engine is still overheating.

How does a car act when it's low on transmission fluid? ›

When your transmission fluid is low, your car won't generate as much hydraulic pressure, leading to what's known as gear slippage. Gear slippage commonly manifests as a failure to accelerate properly. When your transmission fluid is low, you may notice your vehicle reaching high RPMs while moving sluggishly.

Can dirty transmission fluid cause overheating? ›

Dirty transmission fluid can also cause overheating and both low and dirty transmission fluid can result in serious transmission repairs. In order to prevent serious car repairs, it's a good idea to pay attention to any signs of your vehicle overheating.

What causes a car to suddenly overheat? ›

Why Do Engines Overheat? Engines can overheat for many reasons. In general, it's because something's wrong within the cooling system and heat isn't able to escape the engine compartment. The source of the issue could include a cooling system leak, faulty radiator fan, broken water pump, or clogged coolant hose.

What are signs that your water pump is going out? ›

Coolant Leak

The water pump has several gaskets that can be damaged or worn out over time. In this case, coolant may leak out and drip under the vehicle. If you notice coolant (in most cases green or red liquid) under the center front of your vehicle, it's time to check the water pump.

What are signs of a clogged radiator? ›

If your radiator is clogged, you'll likely notice one or more of the following symptoms:
  • Warning 01: Faulty passenger area heater. ...
  • Warning 02: Coolant leaks. ...
  • Warning 03: Overheating engine. ...
  • Warning 04: Low coolant level. ...
  • Warning 05: Sludge or rust in the radiator.
Jul 21, 2022

Can I still drive my car if it overheats? ›

If your car is overheating, you should definitely not drive it. This could be due to several factors, including low coolant levels or a faulty cooling system. Driving an overheated car puts additional strain on the engine, leading to further damage and costly repairs down the road.

Why is my car overheating but no leaks? ›

If there's no leak, an overheat is caused by a problem with coolant level, coolant circulation, or heat transfer. Fill the coolant level. If the problem recurs within a month, it was something other than low level. Circulation problems are caused by clogged radiators, bad water pumps, non-functioning thermostats.


1. 2001 Honda Civic Overheating (FIXED)
2. Ford Quick Tips #69: The Trick to Purging Air From Your Cooling System
3. VW Bug how to prevent engine overheating
(Mike Fn Garage)
4. Coolant fluid exchanges can prevent engine from overheating
(Steve's Auto Repair & Tire)
5. Chrysler 200 Overheating Problem
6. A Hidden Possible Reason your BMW E60 5 Series could be Overheating | Not the Pump, Tank or Fan
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dong Thiel

Last Updated: 04/06/2023

Views: 5303

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (79 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dong Thiel

Birthday: 2001-07-14

Address: 2865 Kasha Unions, West Corrinne, AK 05708-1071

Phone: +3512198379449

Job: Design Planner

Hobby: Graffiti, Foreign language learning, Gambling, Metalworking, Rowing, Sculling, Sewing

Introduction: My name is Dong Thiel, I am a brainy, happy, tasty, lively, splendid, talented, cooperative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.