Preventing your car from overheating

By David Sholicar

Engine warning lights or other evident signs of overheating (smoke, steam, smells) are always a good cause for concern. Driving on with an overheating engine can seriously damage the engine or cause power loss at a dangerous moment – or both. The best way to avoid it ever happening is to have regular full car servicing at a Protyre garage.

Car Overheating

All drivers should have a basic knowledge of overheating symptoms and how to react in the event of an overheat.

Signs of overheating

Warning lights aren’t fool proof, so be on the lookout for other signs of problems brewing. Ticking and thumping noises are one. Ticking noises often come from engines that are too hot. The oil is responsible for removing three quarters of engine heat, so the most common cause is a lack of oil flow. This can be because the oil level is too low, or the lines supplying it are blocked or leaking.
Thumping noises usually indicate that a valve is locking up. The thermostat is often the cause.
Steam from the bonnet and leaks under the car are obvious warning signs. Coolant might be escaping because it is already too hot and boiling over, or because of a leak that will lead to overheating later.
Sometimes cars that are overheating reveal it by losing power. If you feel this happening, you should pull over whether your indicator light is on or not. There are several things that can cause intermittent power loss, so book in at your local Protyre centre and let one of our qualified fitters check your vehicle for you.

What you should do

Unless you are certain the overheating was due to something you can easily remedy – such as a lack of coolant or oil – you should really pull in somewhere safe and call a mechanic to diagnose the situation. In our experience, it isn’t worth the risk of driving on.
If you are going to top up your coolants, be very careful not to burn yourself on the hot engine or bonnet. Many cars have coolant reservoirs separate from the radiator and these can be topped up while the car is still warm. However, to add water to a radiator you need to be sure it has stopped boiling. If the radiator hoses are stiff it means there is still internal pressure, so opening the radiator cap will cause an explosion of scalding liquid. It takes 30-40 minutes for an engine to cool safely.
If you have to keep moving (for example in traffic congestion) turn the air conditioner off and the heater on. Heaters draw heat from the engine, so doing this is good for the engine even when it’s uncomfortable for the passengers.
If you’re stuck in non-moving traffic, switch into neutral or park and rev the engine lightly. This accelerates your cooling fan and water pump. When you move off, stay in low gear.

Car servicing

Overheating usually has relatively low-cost causes (hoses, belts, fans, fluids) with expensive consequences (pistons, cylinders, gaskets). At Protyre garages you can have all these things checked regularly and only pay for labour and parts when they’re needed. Why not get a free tyre check at the same time; all Protyre garages keep a good stock of Bridgestone, Pirelli, Michelin and Continental as well as excellent mid-range offerings from Falken, Firestone and Sumitomo.

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About the author

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By David Sholicar
David is the National Retail Operations Manager for Protyre. One of David’s areas of responsibility and expertise is dealing with the DVSA and MOT’s for Protyre. As the Authorised Examiner Designate Manager ( AEDM ) David deals with applications for changes to the many Vehicle Testing Stations ( VTS’s) including managing the growth of the Number of MOT testing stations that Protyre operate, allocating MOT tester roles, and monitoring the MOT Test logs to ensure that Protyre MOT standards are maintained as the best in the industry.
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