If your car signals to you that its engine is overheating, through a dashboard light or temperature gauge, then you need to understand that this is a critical problem that needs to be immediately addressed. An engine that is not being properly cooled by a car's cooling system is at danger for very serious damage if the problem is not rectified in an expedient manner.
By following these steps, you can diagnose and fix your car's overheating issue:
Locate the Parts of Your Car's Cooling System
All passenger cars have a radiator that is used to circulate cooling water through their engine. When the flow of water is restricted for some reason, then the engine is unable to cool itself and its temperature will climb and eventually if the engine gets too hot it will crack and fail.
To locate the source of the problem your car is having, first find each of the following parts:
the radiator - a long and thin part located at the front of your car behind its grill
the hot water return radiator hose - a large hose located on the driver's side attaching to the radiator's top
the cold water outflow radiator hose - a large hose located on the passenger's side attached to the radiator's bottom
the overflow bottle - a plastic bottle located on the passenger's side where antifreeze is added
Check the Fluid Level in the Overflow Bottle
If the cap on your vehicle's overflow bottle or radiator is loose, then the antifreeze in the radiator can evaporate as the engine heats it. For an overheating car, your first thing to check is always the overflow bottle. On the outside of the bottle is a marking for where it is considered to be "full."
If the bottle is not filled to the fill line, then let the engine cool completely and then add antifreeze into the bottle. There are two types of antifreeze that you can easily differentiate by their color; one antifreeze is orange while the other is green. Your car's owner's manual will tell you which type of antifreeze to purchase for your car.
Open the Radiator Cap and Check Its Spring
If the overflow bottle has fluid in it, then the overheating problem may be caused by the radiator's cap. The cap on all radiators has a spring-activated thermostat in it. If the spring breaks, then the thermostat will not work correctly and overheating of the engine will result.
Remove the cap to the radiator only when the engine has completely cooled! Move the spring around and make sure that it does not stick or feel impeded by anything. Since radiator caps are inexpensive, you should always replace one if you are unable to find another problem with the cooling system. They are not always well made, and they are a common place for failure in a car's cooling system.
Feel the Water Flowing Through the Hoses
With the car running, feel the radiator hoses with your hand and see if you can feel water flowing through the hoses. While the hoses are made of a very thick rubber material, when they are filled with water you can feel the pressure. If you do not feel any water in the hoses, then your radiator may be clogged and in need of replacement.
When You Need Additional Assistance
If you are not able to fix your car's overheating problem by adding coolant or replacing the radiator cap, then you should take your vehicle to a licensed auto service center for repair.
To learn more, contact an auto repair shop like Vince's Auto Service.