In the hot weather, seeing steam coming from the engine compartment is something we all dread. No one wants that to happen to them. But if you know the signs of overheating and how to deal with it, you may be able to reduce the risk of damage to your vehicle, maybe even prevent getting stranded on the road.
Besides the steam coming out of the engine compartment, here are a few signs of overheating. Your vehicle has a heat gauge that may have a needle that can go into a red zone or up to the "H" (for High) position. You may smell odors, perhaps a burning (could be hot oil) or a sweet smell (engine coolant leaking).
When you encounter any of those signs, you know you have to do something to keep the engine as cool as possible to avoid potentially catastrophic damage. Turn off the air conditioning and turn up the heat. While that last part may sound odd, it helps draw heat out of the engine.
If you can do it safely, pull off the road to a spot away from traffic. Turn off the engine so it can cool down for a few minutes. You may want to call for help at this point, then switch on the key to "accessory" position to see if the engine has cooled down to the normal range. You may have to have your car towed to a service facility or, if there's one nearby, you may be able to slowly drive to it. But keep your eye on the heat gauge and immediately stop if it starts to overheat again.
The best hedge against engine overheating is regular maintenance. When the cooling system and other engine components are working like they should, your chances of an overheated engine are drastically reduced. Your service facility will keep their eyes open for leaking hoses, cracked belts, rusted pipes and other things so they don't fail at the most inopportune time.
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