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Why is My Car Overheating?

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By Erin Thompson on February 23, 2022 in Safe Driving

Too hot, hot dang! We understand after the recent snowstorms, you might wish summer heat comes back ASAP. However, we’re definitely not wishing that same heat on your car and its engine. Let’s chat about how to prevent your car from overheating, and if it still somehow happens, we’ll cover why cars overheat and what to do if it happens to you!

How to Prevent Car from Overheating

Always try to avoid the problem rather than treat the problem. Nine times out of ten, it’s much easier and cheaper.

  • Parking! First thing’s first, parking. Always opt for the shady spot over the spot that means your car will be baking in the sun. However, chances are you’re not the only driver attempting to avoid burning their hands on the steering wheel after a long sunny day. So, if you can’t snag the perfect spot – bring car window shades, invest in tinted windows, and/or leave the windows cracked to help keep your ride’s interior cooler than a sauna.
  • A/C! Fresh air > circulation. A/C recirculation doesn’t work well for quickly cooling down your ride, its main purpose is to keep pollutants out of your cabin air. Shockingly, if your car begins to overheat, instead of cranking the A/C, turn on the heat. This pulls heat away from your car’s engine which lightens the strain on the engine.
  • Engine! Now we’ll get into the nitty-gritty, the engine tips. Keep a tab on the car temperature gauge on your dashboard and make sure it doesn’t go outside the normal range. Don’t let your battery get too old. Regularly check coolant levels – this is one of the most common reasons for cars overheating, according to Go Mechanic.

Why is Your Car Overheating?

This is a stellar question. Why do cars overheat? Firestone credits most of overheated engines to, “something wrong within the cooling system and heat isn’t able to escape the engine compartment.” They list common problems of “cooling system leak, faulty radiator fan, broken water pump, [and] clogged coolant hose.”

No matter what the problem is, remember to stay calm, cool (ha!), and collected. Start by pulling over to a safe place and turning off the vehicle. Then, you can assess the issues and tow the car, if necessary.

What to Do if Car Overheats

Here are the steps to follow if your car overheats:

1. Turn off the air conditioning to give your engine a break.

2. Blast the heater to remove excess heat from the engine bay.

3. Pull over.

Pro Tip: Find some shade.

4. Don’t open the hood (no matter how tempting it is).

5. Check the coolant level.

6. Look for leaks.

7. Add more coolant or distilled water to the overflow tank or radiator.

8. Drive and monitor heat.

9. Take it to the shop.

While an overheated car might have a super quick fix, if you can’t identify the problem or you don’t feel confident fixing it yourself – call your local auto shop and have them take a peek.

Car Overheating Causes

Reasons for your car overheating include low coolant level, low oil level, coolant system leak, or a broken thermostat. Any of these could cause a cooling system to fail and the car to overheat.


Be on the lookout for signs that your car is overheating, like a rising temperature gauge, steam under the hood or a strange smell, or a thumping/ticking engine. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, pull over and call for help.

Erin Thompson is the Marketing Manager for Say Insurance. She's responsible for guiding the strategic direction of all Say marketing campaigns. Prior to joining Say, Erin worked for a media agency based in Columbia, MO. She spent several years developing successful advertising campaigns for a diverse set of clients across the United States. Erin began her career in television advertising after earning her Master’s from the University of Missouri Journalism School with an emphasis in Strategic Communication. Her love of communication and helping people directed her to the insurance world.