The causes of engine overheating and its consequences can be many and varied.

But the one thing that’s consistent is that to avoid further trouble, you must identify and deal with the cause.

What should you do? 

Prevention is better than cure. Regular checks of your car’s cooling system and proper servicing will reduce the risk of overheating. But there are a few things you can do. 

  • Regularly check coolant levels in both the overflow reservoir (if fitted) and the radiator.  If the coolant level continually drops, there is a leak that must found and fixed.
  • Always monitor the temperature gauge when driving.  
  • Stop in a safe place and switch off the engine as soon as overheating is detected. Continuing to drive, even for a short distance, could greatly increase damage and repair costs.
  • Never mix different coolants – the results can be unpredictable.

If your car overheats

  • Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot – it’s dangerous.  A severely overheated engine can take several hours to cool.  If the coolant has leaked out, the engine could be much hotter than is indicated by the gauge.
  • Always find and fix the cause and any damage sustained. Simply adding water to an overheated engine will rarely fix the problem. 
  • Never use cold water to refill a hot engine – it can cause further damage.
  • Engine damage may not become apparent for days, weeks, or even months after the overheat. 
  • During an overheat, scale from inside the engine will often become dislodged and block the radiator causing further problems.
  • Thermostats should be checked or preferably replaced after an overheat.  They must not be removed to overcome overheating problems. Fitting a lower temperature thermostat to reduce overheating only masks the real problem, and causes others. 
  • If the car requires towing after an overheat, it is because it is suspected of suffering major damage or, the cause of the overheat could not be found or fixed at the roadside. 
  • In the case of a severe overheat, the extent of damage and the cost of repairs won’t be known until the engine is dismantled and inspected.
  • If an RACQ road service patrol attends, take note of any comments and recommendations made as these can be invaluable to the mechanic diagnosing the cause.

More information

Should you require further assistance please contact our Motoring Advice Service or email us your details now.