Why Your Car Might Be Overheating

Death and taxes . . . and car problems. These are our certainties of the 21st century. And of all the car problems that you will face, your engine overheating is one of the most serious (and frustrating). An overheating engine can crack or warp if it gets too hot, which can cause irreparable damage, so don’t take an overheating issue lightly.

But what causes an engine to overheat? Because your engine is such a complex part of your vehicle, the answer to that question can vary on a few things, some small and some big. The Loper’s Performance team offers some insight in this article to help you get to the bottom of why your car might be overheating.

Low Coolant

This is certainly the easiest fix and most common problem to an overheating engine: low coolant. What keeps your car engine cool and operational is the cooling system, and coolant does most of that work. Absorbing heat from the engine, coolant moves heat to the radiator to be cooled down and then cycled back through the engine once it’s free of excessive heat. Without enough coolant, the temperature of your engine rises.

It’s best to check coolant levels regularly, but coolant fluid replacement primarily depends upon the make and model of your vehicle. Some recommend changing coolant fluid every 30,000 miles, and others will say every 50,000 or 60,000. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to check yourself every few months or so to ensure your engine won’t overheat.

Defective Thermostat

Your car thermostat is part of the cooling system, controlling the flow of coolant. The thermostat ensures that coolant flows when the engine reaches an operating temperature, which occurs a little after starting your car. A broken, damaged, or a defective thermostat might still be closed when the engine is hot, so coolant is flowing and causing the engine to overheat.

Bad Water Pump

Also part of the cooling system, a water pump circulates coolant through the cooling system. A faulty water pump won’t circulate coolant as well, or at all, and this will certainly cause the engine to overheat.

Damaged Radiator or Cap

As mentioned, coolant travels to the radiator to remove excessive heat from within the engine. If your engine is overheating, this can indicate that your radiator is damaged, which would not effectively collect heat from the liquid traveling throughout the cooling system.

Or, the radiator cap itself could be damaged. This keeps the cooling system pressurized, so if it is cracked or broken, coolant may be boiling off and leaking through the system rather than being properly cooled.

Damaged Radiator Fan

The radiator actually only removes heat that its fins grab from the coolant while your car is moving. So, once it’s stopped, the radiator fan turns on. This moves air across the radiator, rather than fins grabbing heat. An overheating engine can mean that the radiator fan is not working properly. This can particularly be the case when your temperature warning light comes on while your vehicle is stopped.

Blown Head Gasket

Finally, the last common reason for your car overheating is a blown head gasket. This aspect to your engine keeps the engine block and cylinder head separate. When it is broken, or “blown,” coolant often gets into the combustion chamber or oil gets into the cooling system. This significantly affects the engine’s performance, especially decreasing the coolant level. It can also cause white oil and smoke to come from the exhaust pipe.

Don’t Mess Around with an Overheating Engine

Your car is a precious beast, and it requires some attention and action to keep it running for a long time. An overheating engine can be problematic, especially if you neglect to get it inspected by a trusted mechanic. As a rule of thumb, your car’s temperature gauge should sit in the middle, between cool and hot. If you notice it start to fluctuate or lean more on the “hot” side, that can be a fair warning to get it looked at quickly, before you end up pulling over due to a hot temperature warning light or even smoke from the engine.

About Loper’s Performance

Loper’s Performance Center is proud to be the largest speed shop in Arizona. We’ve been in the Phoenix area servicing all makes and models for happy, satisfied customers since 1969. Visit our website to learn about our complete service center and performance parts. Or, contact us today to discover why we’re one of the most trusted mechanics in Phoenix.