You might get a used car at a bargain, but keeping it for the long haul can drain your pockets dry. As the car gets older, it tends to develop various issues: some of them can be taken care of by a roadside mechanic, while others require expensive repairs in the workshop. 

And one of the common troubles that give car owners sleepless nights is engine overheating.

What is engine overheating?

A car's engine is designed to perform optimally at a certain temperature. If the temperature rises above that limit, the excess heat tends to damage internal components and blow up the engine. 

What happens when you continue to drive a hot engine?

While most modern vehicles are equipped with a temperature gauge to alert the driver of an overheating situation, it is often overlooked. Consequences? It can be worse than your imagination.

If you are lucky, prolonged engine overheating will only lead to a blown head gasket. The head gasket sits between the cylinder head and the engine block. Its purpose is to allow the coolant and oil to travel throughout the engine without getting mixed up.

Due to excess heat, the rubber on the head gasket melts away. As a result, the coolant and the engine oil get mixed up to stall the engine. Replacing the head gasket is a labour-intensive job, and it’s ridiculously expensive.

If worst comes to the worst, the engine may catch fire.

However, you can avoid engine overheating problems by taking simple preventative measures. There's no rocket science involved. Anyone who can pop the hood can easily perform these 5-minute checks to keep engine overheating troubles at bay.

Check engine fluids

The primary cause of engine overheating is low coolant level. Therefore, it is advised to check coolant level regularly, especially before a long drive. Check the level in the coolant reservoir as well as the radiator tank and top off in case the level has dropped below the mark.

Also, look out for any leakage in the radiator hoses, radiator tank and the throttle body (in some cars, the coolant travels through the throttle body as well) A radiator leak can be a very expensive problem to fix, especially if it results in having to replace your whole radiator, this is according to Ryan Kelly of GrandPrixTimes. However, there's an inexpensive solution on how you can fix radiator leaks quickly and it is with the use of radiator stop leak products.

The next step is to check the level and condition of the engine oil.

Burnt-out or low engine oil fails to ensure optimum lubrication, which leads to more friction and the engine starts to run hot. This can damage internal engine components slowly yet continuously.

Check cooling fans

The function of a cooling fan is to let fresh air inside the engine compartment and drive excess heat away from it. Cooling fans usually kick in to keep the engine cool in stop-and-go traffic. And to make sure the fans are working properly, let the engine run idle for about 5-10 minutes. If the fan doesn't kick in and the temperature gauge swings to the red, there's a problem that needs immediate attending to.

Everything's fine and yet the engine overheats?

Chances are you have a thermostat that's stuck closed. Think of it as a valve between the engine block and the cooling system. It is shut off during cold start and opens up as the engine warms up, in order to initiate coolant circulation.

If it's stuck closed, the hot coolant will remain inside the block and won’t get to the radiator to get cooled, causing the engine to overheat.

In another possibility, you have a bad radiator cap that isn't able to hold the desired pressure. If replacing the radiator cap can fix the issue, great! You have just saved yourself a lot of money.

Final words

Engine overheating can happen to any vehicle, but it is more common in older vehicles, especially SUVs and trucks. So, whether you are buying a second-hand commercial truck or a used car, always approach a reliable dealer to avoid a lemon.


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